Michael Shin is the latest victor in the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship, cruising to a comprehensive 12.7-second victory over Gerrard Xie at Ruapuna.
Xie fended off a late challenge from rookie Patrick Woods-Toth to hold second, with the Canadian forced to settle for third, having defended for half of the race from championship leader Roman Bilinski.
Bilinski’s result puts one hand firmly on the 2024 trophy, with closest rival Liam Sceats left in eighth and stuck behind quick Indy NXT driver Jacob Abel.
Shin and Woods-Toth started the reverse top-eight grid race from the front row, with both getting away well and running side-by-side into Turn 1, with the pole-sitter holding the inside line. The duo made light contact at the exit of Turn 2, which ran Woods-Toth wide and allowed Xie through to take second.
Kaleb Ngatoa also pounced, jumping to third ahead of the Canadian, while Alex Crosbie dropped to fifth as a result of a slower start off the second row.
Sebastian Manson made his competitive debut for Giles Motorsport and immediately made an impact from the rear of the grid, climbing four places on Lap 1 to sit 12th.
Bilinski was quick off the line from eighth and got ahead of Sceats before making ground on those ahead, picking off Abel at Turn 2 on Lap 2. Woods-Toth also found a way through Ngatoa to return to the podium places.
By the end of Lap 4, Shin’s advantage over the field had extended beyond two seconds, with Xie having made ground over Woods-Toth and Ngatoa.
Bilinski moved into fifth with a pass on Crosbie on Lap 5, while Sceats, who was on the tail of Abel, lost ground on those ahead.
The championship leader then passed Ngatoa on Lap 7, relegating the Kiwi to fifth, before joining onto the rear of Woods-Toth, who was applying pressure to Xie.
A multi-lap battle between the Canadian and Polish drivers followed, with the former having a response to every move the latter threw his way.
The battle behind allowed Xie to pull a slight that would enable him to hold second.
Up front, there was no catching Shin, who repeatedly set the fastest lap to build on his advantage. His lead sat at 8.4 seconds by the end of Lap 14 and grew to 10.3 seconds by Lap 17.
The South Korean took the chequered flag with a healthy 12.7-second advantage over Xie, who was 1.64 seconds ahead of Woods-Toth. The Canadian held off one final challenge from Bilinski over the final laps.
Ngatoa finished one second behind M2 Competition’s championship leader in fifth, with Crosbie coming sixth, ahead of Abel and Sceats. Jett Bowling and Andretti Global’s Bryce Aron completed the top ten.
It was a successful debut outing for Manson, who was classified 11th.
The Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship returns to action for the Lady Wigram Trophy race at 4.28 pm, with Bilinski starting on the pole and Sceats alongside.
|Landan Matriano Lim