First time drivers racing into the unknown
First time drivers in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at the Ruapuna track near Christchurch could end up relying more than usual on their engineers and mechanics when qualifying and the first race is held on Saturday morning.
The nine series debutants have spent the last three days practicing in wet conditions, but the weekend weather forecast is for fine weather.
“It will be difficult,” admitted Russian Robert Shwartzman who was one of the fastest drivers in the wet. “I don’t know what my braking points will be in the dry, or how fast I can go.”
The 18 year old from St Petersburg admitted he will need his race engineer and mechanics to set the car up differently for the dry conditions that are expected.
“But I will try my hardest. I’ve been fast in the wet so I hope to be competitive in the dry.”
Friday’s final practice session started in the wet and finished with a rapidly drying track, in which the fastest times were set in the last minute.
The youngest driver in the field, 16-year-old Charles Milesi, was fastest with an 86.280 lap, followed by American Cameron Das and Guyana’s Calvin Ming.
By that time local favourite Marcus Armstrong had already stopped after setting the fastest time when the track was wet.
“The car feels good and fast,” said Armstrong, who is one of only four drivers who have experience from last year when the meeting was held in dry weather.
“As long as qualifying is not like this afternoon when the last person to get a time in just before the end of the session is fastest.”
Shwartzman was fourth fastest in the constantly improving conditions, while the quickest Kiwi was Taylor Cockerton from Pukekohe in seventh and Armstrong was only ninth with his time from the much wetter conditions, just behind Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch.
Armstrong, Leitch and Cockerton and Dutch teenager Richard Verschoor will be able to revert to the dry weather settings on their cars from last summer, while the rest of the field will have to rely on the experience and expertise of their engineer and mechanics to adjust suspension and wings for the dry conditions.
Fastest practice times.-
1, Charles Milesi (France) 86.280 seconds;
2, Cameron Das (United States) 86.492;
3, Calvin Ming (Guyana) 86.594;
4, Robert Shwartzman (Russia) 86.659;
5, James Pull (England) 86.661;
6, Juan Manuel Correa (Ecuador) 86.773;
7, Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe) 86.892;
8, Brendon Leitch (Invercargill) 86.981;
9, Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch) 87.197;
10, Clement Novalak (France) 87.256.