Auer on pole position – Lawson on front row
Austrian Lucas Auer will start from pole position for the 64th New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon on Sunday afternoon, as the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series looks set to go down to the wire.
Auer's 1.02.388 lap was the best of the Grand Prix weekend around the challenging Manawatu circuit, and it left the rest in his wake until the dying moments of the session. Championship leader Liam Lawson lines up on the front row to give himself a slight advantage over title rival and fellow Kiwi Marcus Armstrong.
"The session was very good, a step forward from yesterday,” said the experienced racer. “I think we got everything right with the tyre pressures and I was able to set a good time. It was a bit cooler this morning, but the lap times were pretty similar. It’s close."
The teams took some time during the 15 minute qualifying session to warm the tyres and cars up, and it was only in the last six minutes that the times started to come. First up was a sensational lap by Liam Lawson - ahead by just a point in the championship chase - with a mega 1.02.6 lap, which was then all but matched by Lucas Auer with a lap four one hundredths behind.
Auer then went quicker with the best lap of the weekend with a 1.02.3 and Marcus Armstrong managed a 1.02.5 to second, leaving Lawson third. Esteban Muth went under 1.03 too. Lawson then bagged two huge laps to get within two hundredths of a second of Auer, but it was the Austrian on pole position with Lawson on the front row alongside him.
Armstrong took third and a late charge by Brendon Leitch saw him dip under the 1.03 bracket to take the other spot on the second row of the grid in fourth.
Muth’s best lap put him fifth on the grid for the Grand Prix, with Cameron Das sixth to complete row three. Row four for the big race will comprise Raoul Hyman and Petr Ptacek, with a brave Artem Petrov, suffering from a bad bout of flu, and Australian Calan Williams completing the top ten
Veteran Kenny Smith will start off the back of the grid for the Grand Prix in 17th, but will take one more giant step towards a remarkable total of 50 New Zealand Grand Prix when he makes his 48th start in the big race later on this afternoon.
2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series - New Zealand Grand Prix, Manfeild, GP Qualifying
1. Lucas Auer (Austria)
2. Liam Lawson (New Zealand)
3. Marcus Armstrong (New Zealand)
4. Brendon Leitch (New Zealand)
5. Esteban Muth (Belgium)
6. Cameron Das (United States)
7. Raoul Hyman (United Kingdom)
8. Petr Ptacek (Czech Republic)
9. Artem Petrov (Russia)
10. Calan Williams (Australia)
11. Petru Florescu (Romania)
12. Kazuto Kotaka (Japan)
13. Jackson Walls (Australia)
14. Parker Locke (United States)
15. Thomas Smith (Australia)
16. Dev Gore (United States)
17. Kenny Smith (New Zealand)