Invercargill driver Alex Crosbie endured his toughest weekend in the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship during Round 3 at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in North Waikato over the weekend, but the championship is so tight that he is still well placed with two rounds remaining.
The seventeen-year-old Southlander suffered a costly blow in qualifying for the weekend’s opening race when a red flag ended the session, and he crossed the line too late for his lap to be counted as the team were a long way behind other teams in the pit lane.
While most drivers got nine laps in the session, Crosbie and his teammates only got eight, and conditions were improving all the time. Prior to that point, Crosbie was fourth and well-placed for a good start to the weekend.
Conditions were wet again when Crosbie lined up for the opening race on Saturday afternoon, and he opted for slick tyres as drivers debated whether to fit slicks or wets.
The track dries quickly at Hampton Downs, and Crosbie had made up three positions by the second corner of the race. He dropped one position soon after but then settled into eighth place for several laps before a spin sent him off and into the gravel.
He lost time getting back on the track and rejoined in 14th place. He climbed to twelfth, but then heavy rain began to fall, and officials called the race off early. “I passed some of the people on wet tyres after I went off, so slick tyres were definitely the correct choice,” he said.
Qualifying for Sunday afternoon’s feature race for the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup was held on Sunday morning, but the session was again halted, and there was only time for one push lap.
“My tyres weren’t quite there, and I made some small mistakes,” he said. Nevertheless, he would line up eighth for the feature event.
Before then, he took part in the second race of the weekend starting from twelfth, his finishing spot from the previous day.
“I made a good start and got up to ninth but lost one position during the race.”
Once again, the race was stopped early after an accident involving Hong Kong driver Gerrard Xie. Xie was unhurt, but the race was stopped immediately. Racing rules dictate that results go back to the previous lap, so he was classified tenth.
The finale, the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup, saw Crosbie eighth on the grid, and again, he made a great start, picking up a few positions off the line and during the first lap.
In one exchange, he passed a car into turn one but was repassed down the back straight. “Then I made a mistake, and two more got past me. We had a dice for a few laps before I gained one position and finally found race pace that I had been searching for all weekend.
“I was pushing to close down the gap to the two cars ahead of me but couldn’t do it. If I had made my pass a bit quicker, I would have had a shot at making more positions.”
Crosbie ended the weekend ninth in the points but only two points off eighth position and sixteen points off the fourth-placed driver. He also fell to third in the Rookie Title race, but again, he is just fourteen points off the lead of that championship.
As always, Crosbie acknowledged his team, Giles Motorsport, for their support as well as that of his sponsors and family.
The series now moves to the South Island, with Round 4 scheduled at Ruapuna, Christchurch, this weekend.
It is the track that Crosbie has the most experience with of all those used in the championship.
“I have driven a wings & slicks car there and raced Formula Ford, so it is the place I know best. It will be good to get there and fix a few issues and not have to chase problems throughout the weekend.”
Words and Images: Supplied