NEWS
Sunday, Feb 10 04:22pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Liam Lawson wins New Zealand Grand Prix and Toyota Racing Series

Liam Lawson has done the double to win both the Castrol Toyota Racing Series and the 64th New Zealand Grand Prix as a rookie.

 

The race was littered with incidents, but just one one would define the outcome of the race after race leader Marcus Armstrong was handed a post-race penalty for a clash with Lawson.

 

“It’s definitely pretty cool,” Lawson said after the race.

 

“I was really nervous going into that race. Like I said many times many times, I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.

 

“To win in my first season is pretty cool. A massive thanks to M2 [Competition]. They’ve done an amazing job. It’s really, really special.

 

“It’s been so close the whole series. Every race it’s been changing between the leaders. I thought the race was over after Marcus ran me off the track, I thought that was it, we were done, but we fought on.”

 

Read the full report below:

 

The surprise off the start was Lucas Auer who bogged down and immediately fell back into the clutches of Marcus Armstrong.


Lawson duly took the lead into turn one but was immediately under threat from third place starter Armstrong. Side-by-side they went out of the corner and ahead was Armstrong by just half a car length.

 

Armstrong braked late into Splash, but he was too late and off wide he went. That allowed Lawson back into the lead. The second placed M2 Competition ace went on the defense with Auer in behind, but fortunately for Armstrong he kept the place.

 

Kazuto Kotaka went wide and off the track on lap two out of Higgins and fell to the back of the field.

 

The opening few laps were relatively incident free. Lawson led Armstrong, Auer, Leitch and Muth. Raoul Hyman, Cameron Das, Pter Ptacek, Thomas Smith and Artem Petrov completed the top 10.

 

Brendon Leitch locked up early on in the race and by lap four he was under pressure from Belgian hot shot Muth. The Kiwi couldn’t hold station as Muth dive-bombed Leitch for fourth and stole the spot.

 

Lawson and Armstrong split themselves from the rest of the field.

 

The first dose of drama came on lap seven when Czech driver Petr Ptacek speared off into the tyre wall. The safety car came out and the race was neutralised.  

 

After the incident Ptacek said he’d been struggling with an issue that he’d picked up in Race 2.

 

“When I stepped on the brake I just lost the rear,” Ptacek said.

 

“It’s just something from my previous race. I don’t know. The whole championship went from not being too bad to being maybe the worst championship I’ve had.

 

“I think we showed that we are fast and that we have potential to fight in front, but many mistakes from the team’s side and also from my side just didn’t allow us to go where we are supposed to and finish in the positions we are supposed to.”

 

The race restarted with Lawson at the front of the field, but it wasn’t long before chaos unfolded. He established a few car lengths on his fellow countryman who came under attack from Auer. The Austrian looked to the inside of Armstrong into Turn 1, but a door wasn’t open.

 

The following lap Muth got a good run on Auer and went side-by-side into Turn 1 with his teammate. The outside line turned into the inside as the duo headed into Splash. Auer slid wide and got out onto the kerb.

 

That allowed Leitch to go through and nab back fourth. Out wide through the hairpin, Auer turned in to find Das on his inside. The pair made contact and the Austrian launched into the air.

 

What followed was a comedy of errors as Das parked his car alongside Auer, Raoul Hyman went into Das, Thomas Smith went into Hyman, and Calan Williams went into Smith.

 

Artem Petrov got caught up in the incident too. His right front clipped the back of Williams’ car and he retired to the pit lane with his suspension collapsed.  

 

A lengthy red flag stopped the race. Hyman was the only one to return to the fold.

 

“I missed out the start and after I was going backwards,” Auer said.

 

“Then I touched with another car. That was the end of the story. I was going slower and slower and I thought that maybe I had a problem but I don’t know yet.”

 

Armstrong got a good restart and went with Lawson, side-by-side into Turn 1. The 18-year-old hung around the outside, which turn to the inside at Splash - a pass that had already been proven was possible.

 

Wheel-to-wheel they went into the corner, but Armstrong carted Lawson off the road. The 16-year-old bounced across the grass and returned behind Leitch.

 

A lap later a good exit by Lawson through Turn 1 saw the Pukekohe teen perform the classic criss-cross to clear the Southlander out of the corner.

 

The mayhem and Manfeild carried on. A scary crash saw Dev Gore and Jackson Walls come to blows down the back straight on lap 16. The pair were side-by-side when their wheels touched. Walls went sideways and Gore’s nose launched up into the air. Gore’s nosecone nudged Walls’ head and the race was immediately red flagged.

 

Attention turned to Walls straight away who was quickly extracted from his car. Fortunately the Australian was uninjured and managed to walk away.

 

“Jackson Walls shouldn’t have a licence, simple as,”a rather disgruntled Gore said.

 

At the restart Lawson was dropped back down to fourth behind Leitch. With 16 laps to go Armstrong led the field away.

 

A stellar restart by Lawson saw the young gun capitalise on a clash between Muth and Leitch. The eldest of the Kiwi contingent clipped the right rear wheel of Muth, which sent him into a slide. Lawson took advantage of the duo battling and slid up the inside of them both. Lawson sat second.

 

Having been as high as third, Leitch began to lose speed and fell back. Muth got by at Dunlop, then got sandwiched between Kotaka and Hyman down the front straight. In a straightaway he’d dropped to sixth.

 

The race got one last dose of drama when Armstrong got handed a five-second post-race penalty. The officials looked dimly on the incident between he and Lawson that saw the eventual race winner end up in the grass. It was a similar story to Armstrong’s Race 2 incident where he sent Calan Williams wide, the reason; not leaving sufficient room.

 

That ended all hope for Armstrong. He tried to establish a lead, but it wasn’t enough. Armstrong cruised across the line without a wave. 

 

Full results to follow ... 

 

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