A disappointed Daniel Gaunt believes Shane van Gisbergen was the most deserving winner of today’s New Zealand Grand Prix, despite having led most of the race.
Gaunt had seized control of the race on the opening lap, getting the better of polesitter Kaleb Ngatoa on the run into Turn 2.
A two-time winner of the Grand Prix, Gaunt looked poised to add a third as he resisted Ngatoa and Chris van der Drift’s early challenge. The latter ultimately damaging his front wing after making light contact with Gaunt in a push for the lead.
A steady lead was then nullified when the race’s only safety car was deployed when an electrical issue caused Peter Vodanovich to peel off the road.
Then with van Gisbergen making his charge from last towards the front, Gaunt was left to relinquish P1 with ten laps in hand.
Speaking after the race, Gaunt said losing out on the win left him downcast, but he agreed that it would have taken something special to beat van Gisbergen.
“The better driver just won on the day,” Gaunt told Velocity News. “The guy is unreal.
“Before the race, and throughout the whole weekend really, he was making notes, going through data. He is a professional and deserved it.
“But I was really confident with my pace. Up until that safety car, I thought I could control the race and have a shot at winning.
“At the same time, it was awesome to be a part of all this. I reckon Tony [Quinn] would be sitting at home in his chair wishing to be here and see what he has put on.”
Gaunt would slip back to eighth by the chequered flag following some uncharacteristic mistakes.
“Some small mistakes didn’t help.
“I kind of ran out of legs towards the end. I then hit the pit limiter once and hurt the tyres.”
A highlight of the early part of the race was the duel for the lead between Gaunt and van der Drift. The two would ultimately come to blows, with van der Drift writing off his front wing and ruling out his victory chances.
Gaunt was able to push on, but he says it was a shame to have seen his rival go out in the way he did.
“I knew there wouldn’t be a puncture for me afterwards because it was hit on the side of the rear.
“But I am gutted for him. He could have done well had that not have happened.
“Until then, it was a lot of fun racing him. Plus, I still felt good leading.”
The Castrol Toyota Racing Series returns to Hampton Downs next weekend for round two, held on the shorter national circuit.