Alpine Academy driver Nicola Lacorte converted a front-row start to victory in the second Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship race at Hampton Downs.
M2 Competition’s Michael Shin kept the pressure on his teammate throughout the race to finish second, while championship leader Roman Bilinski moved from eighth to third to round out the podium places ahead of Patrick Woods-Toth.
A frightening high-speed final lap crash for Gerrard Xie brought an early ending to proceedings, with the M2 Competition driver having driven well on his way to a top-five result. He would retain fifth on the countback following the red flag.
All four New Zealanders in the field made significant moves forward throughout the race, with Liam Sceats classified sixth, one place ahead of Kaleb Ngatoa, who charged for a respectable seventh, having started from the rear of the grid.
Alex Crosbie and Kaden Probst were tenth and eleventh, respectively.
After finishing eighth in Saturday’s race, MTec Motorsport’s Elliott Cleary began from the pole alongside M2 Competition’s Nicola Lacorte.
Championship-leading Bilinski began from eighth, next to his closest rival, Sceats. Crosbie lined up from grid 12 while Probst and Ngatoa ran from the back row.
A great start from Shin off the second row jumped him ahead of Cleary and just behind Lacorte at the exit of Turn 1. The leading duo ran side-by-side through Turn 2, with Lacorte holding the front and pulling an early gap over the field.
Sceats also got away well and was up to sixth on the opening lap and featured in an excellent side-by-side battle with the championship leader over several corners.
Bilinski eventually found a way through to fall in behind Cleary, who had dropped to fifth following successful passes from Gerrard Xie and Patrick Woods-Toth, respectively.
Ngatoa was amongst the biggest early movers, climbing from the rear of the grid to sit 11th by the end of Lap 4, while Probst also made moves and sat 13th.
Woods-Toth’s early charge continued on Lap 5, with the Canadian driver, who started sixth, moving into the podium places with a pass on Xie. Bilinski and Sceats passed Cleary on Lap 5 to sit fifth and sixth.
Ngatoa moved into the top ten on Lap 6, with the Kiwi passing Titus Sherlock and Lucas Fecury in quick succession. He then hunted down Formula 3 driver Tommy Smith to take eighth in the following circuit.
Up front, Lacorte had failed to extend his gap over Shin, with the field following close behind and the top ten separated by less than 10 seconds at the end of Lap 9.
A great run out of Turn 1 on Lap 10 allowed Ngatoa to pass Cleary on the inside into Turn 2. His charge, however, would end there with Sceats in sixth and four seconds up the road.
Bilinski, who set a lap record 1:29.403 on his way to the rear of Xie, and the battle between the duo brought Sceats back onto the tail of the Polish driver.
Further back, Crosbie had worked his way into the top ten by the end of Lap 13, while Probst had jumped to twelfth and was right behind Fecury.
Bilinski finally got his man on Lap 14, overtaking Xie at Turn 2, and moved onto the rear of Woods-Toth, who had lost ground on the leading pair of Lacorte and Shin.
The championship leader attempted a move on Woods-Toth the following circuit but ran wide into the dirt, losing momentum as he worked to keep the car straight.
Bilinski successfully got the move done on the penultimate lap, jumping into the podium places but two seconds behind the leaders.
Xie’s impressive drive came to an unfortunate end at Turn 1 on the final lap, with the M2 Competition driver attempting to go up the inside of Woods-Toth, who was already running a tight line.
His front left connected with the right rear of the Canadian driver, with Xie’s car sustaining suspension damage that ran him off track at a high pace, sliding through advertising hoardings and back across the track at Turn 1, narrowly missing Bilinski, who was in the turn.
He hit the tyre barriers head-on, bringing out a quick red flag and an early end to proceedings.
Lacorte’s advantage at the red flag was 1.47 seconds, with the Alpine Academy driver taking the win from Shin and Bilinski.
Woods-Toth was able to continue for fourth, ahead of Xie, Sceats and Ngatoa. Crosbie and Probst were tenth and eleventh, respectively.
The Dorothy Smith Memorial Trophy race concludes Round 3 of the championship and begins at 4.03 pm. Sky Sport 5 has live coverage of the event.
Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship Round 3 Race 2 Results
|Landan Matriano Lim
Header Image: Toyota Gazoo Racing (Bruce Jenkins)