Mansell’s fastest ever Taupo lap an earthshaker

Christian taupo test (940 x 450)

Record breaking lap times were the order of the day as the first official practice for the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship got underway at New Zealand’s Taupo International Motorsport Park.

A switch to Pirelli tyres for this year has yielded at least one second per lap for the Toyota FT60 chassis used in the championship and it will likely see official lap records at some tracks broken over the next five weekends of Australasia’s top single seater championship.

And it was Australia’s Christian Mansell that set the sector times alight with a championship record around the 3.5km South Waikato track.

A general test day on Thursday pointed to faster lap times, but the pace of some of the runners today in official practice suggested a solid leap forward in speed that could see this year’s field produce the fastest ever single seater championship in the country.

In the first session on Friday it was Mansell who set the pace with an eye-catching 1 minute 23.159 lap, just under a second faster than the best lap of 2023.  Canadian Patrick Woods-Toth and Kiwi Kaleb Ngatoa were next up, just over two tenths off Christian’s best lap.

Rain arrived for the second session meaning nobody went any quicker than in P1 but it was Poland’s Roman Bilinski who adjusted best to a wet track as he went four tenths of a second quicker than Michael Shin and Liam Sceats. Morning pacesetters Mansell, Woods-Toth and Ngatoa also featured in the top ten throughout the 30 minute session.

The third and final session of the day – which included a minor earth tremor in a region notorious for tectonic activity - saw Mansell fastest again in dry but slightly slower conditions. His nearest challengers were Woods-Toth and Ngatoa again, pointing at least at this stage to those three being contenders over the forthcoming weekend.

A good turnout of drivers from the USA also impressed during the day’s testing, with all making steady and solid progress with lap times.

The field of 17 drivers will get the action underway tomorrow morning with qualifying before the first race in the afternoon.

Weather could be a factor but if it stays dry the race looks set to be one of the fastest at the Taupo track since A1GP put the circuit on the international map for more than 15 years ago.