Caio Collet has claimed the opening win of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Highlands Motorsport Park in a last lap thriller.
Having set the quickest time in Qualifying, the Renault Sport Academy driver began Race 1 of the season from pole position.
Collet got a good start to lead the field into the Bus Stop Chicane. Just behind him, Igor Fraga got a good getaway from fourth place to edge out Lirim Zendeli into the first turn. The rest of the field managed to make their way through without incident.
At the end of Lap 1, it was Callot for MTEC Motorsport by R-ace GP who led M2 Competition duo Lawson and Fraga. Giles Motorsport pair Zendeli and Gregoire Saucy were fourth and fifth respectively.
Having been eighth overall, Jackson Walls suddenly lost ground. Drama on Lap 3 saw Walls go straight on at the bus stop and skate through the grass. Not long after that, Jose Blanco ended up off the road with mechanical dramas. He soon fell to 14th overall.
At the front of the field, Collet and Lawson stretched their legs. Fraga was a distant third with Zendeli and Saucy even further back in fourth and fifth. The leaders traded fastest laps. For a moment, Lawson got within striking distance of Collet but the Brazilian driver stretched his lead out.
Having had an average start, Lucas Petersson’s day got worse after he spun at Turn 14 hairpin. Though that was tempered by an incident just moments later.
Henning Enqvist of Sweden brought out the Safety Car on Lap 10 when he threw his car sideways on approach to the bridge. Vision of the incident appeared to show Enqvist try to widen the entry of the corner, but ended up losing the rear of the car. He duly spun and slammed into the tyre barrier. Following behind him, Rui Andrade spun as well as he tried to avoid the incident.
The Full Course Caution was quickly deployed and the field bunched up for a sprint to the finish. Lawson got a good restart and hung with Collet. The Kiwi feigned left and Collet defended, but he got loose on entry to the corner.
It looked like a pass might be forthcoming for Lawson, but the door never opened and the Red Bull Junior driver had to settle for second.
“It was a really good race,”Collet said.
“We had a lot of pressure, but I think we had a really good car and really good pace. I wasn’t expecting the Safety Car, but it was good to come out with the win.
“My restart didn’t go as expected, it was really close. There was a lot of pressure but I’m glad we could come out with the win.”
Collet came across the line just a few tenths ahead Lawson with Fraga not far behind in third. Zendeli and Saucy were fourth and fifth while Yuki Tsunoda was only sixth.
Oliver Rasmussen made up ground to take seventh place while Petr Ptacek and Franco Colapinto were eighth and ninth. Ido Cohen was the biggest mover in the race, coming from 17th to 10th for M2 Competition.
Chelsea Herbert made a strong start to the race but fell one place to 17th overall.
The action resumes on Sunday with Qualifying 2 for the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, which will set the grid for Race 3. The grid for Race 2 will be determined by a marble draw reverse grid.