Lawson turns up the speed to take Pukekohe pole
Reigning champion Liam Lawson grabbed pole position in the dying seconds of qualifying at Pukekohe Park this morning, as the battle for supremacy in this year's Castrol Toyota Racing Series between the Kiwi and Brazilian Igor Fraga continued at full throttle.
Lawson and Fraga - the championship leader - traded the fastest times lap after lap in the last five minutes of the session. A last minute lock up on Fraga's final flying lap seemed to seal the deal for Lawson, who stopped the clocks with a scintillating 1 minute 0.027 seconds to lock in pole position for the weekend's first race on Saturday afternoon by just two and a half hundredths of a second.
It was another closely fought session, but M2 Competition were best represented with the top four of the qualifiers. Lawson and Fraga were followed by Israel's Ido Cohen - enjoying his best performance of the championship so far around one of its most challenging tracks and Lawson's fellow Red Bull Junior, Yuki Tsunoda.
The first five minutes of the 15 minute session was spent warming up the tyres and it was Caio Collet who was first to show as the times tumbled with a 1 minute 3 second lap. This was immediately eclipsed by Lawson who went into the 1 minute 2ss and then by Petr Ptacek who lowered the mark to 1 minute 1.6 seconds. He lowered that mark by a few tenths on his next lap before Tsunoda then Cohen went quicker again, both clocking 1 minute 1.1 second laps.
As the clock counted down Lawson and Fraga then entered the picture with 1 minute 0.5 second laps separated by a few hundredths to go first and second before Colapinto went fastest for Kiwi Motorsport. The M2 Competition drivers then wound up the pace even further and Lawson nailed a rapid 1 minute 0.172 lap which was a couple of tenths quicker than his Gran Turismo supported team mate. A lap later and both were pretty much level again, and on the one minute flat mark, but it was Fraga ahead.
Lawson kept his head and bagged his sensational final lap as the flag fell for the end of the session, clocking another fastest ever single seater time around the longer circuit configuration in the process.
"We put it together today," he said afterwards. "We worked really hard yesterday to find a good balance and we found a really good window. It took a while right at the end and I was worried a little bit there, but it was nice to turn it around. Turn four is a critical part of the track. With good entry speed you can gain a lot there, but you can also lose a lot on the exit. We nailed that and that was key as it was a part of the track we were struggling on at the start of the weekend."
Petr Ptacek qualified fifth but incurred a penalty for a red flag infringement that will push him down the starting grid for the first race.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series - Round 4 Pukekohe Park - Qualifying
- Liam Lawson - M2 Competition
- Igor Fraga - M2 Competition
- Ido Cohen - M2 Competition
- Yuki Tsunoda - M2 Competition
- Petr Ptacek - mtec Motorsport
- Caio Collet - mtec Motorsport
- Emilien Denner - M2 Competition
- Franco Colapinto - Kiwi Motorsport
- Tijmen van der Helm - Kiwi Motorsport
- Oliver Rasmussen - mtec Motorsport
- Lucas Petersson - mtec Motorsport
- Lirim Zendeli - Giles Motorsport
- Grégoire Saucy - Giles Motorsport
- Jackson Walls - mtec Motorsport
- Spike Kohlbecker - Kiwi Motorsport
- Rui Andrade - M2 Competition
- Axel Gnos - Kiwi Motorsport
- Henning Enqvist - Giles Motorsport