Chris van der Drift has won the inaugural TCR New Zealand series despite experiencing a mechanical gremlin in the final race at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Having finished first and second in both of the day’s earlier races, van der Drift and Gene Rollinson were set to duke it out for the overall title.
However, Rollinson’s race was scuppered when a head gasket blew just ten minutes into the race.
Before that, the Racer Products Hyundai i30 N was electric and, despite his DNF, Rollinson set a 1.12.368 in the final race. The time is the new lap record for a TCR around Highlands.
Without the threat of Rollinson, van der Drift’s title was secured. However, he also ran into trouble after his Audi RS3 became stuck in fifth gear.
“It was a bit stressful that last race,” van der Drift said.
“We had a really good start. The first few laps were mega, and we even found a bit more pace. I knew I just had the manage the gap to Gene, but then I came over the bridge and went to change down, and nothing happened. It was just locked in fifth gear.
“I was straight on the radio but there was nothing really that I could do apart from trying not to stall it. Luckily for us, Gene had his problems too, so I just had to circulate from there and hoped nothing else broke in those last few minutes.”
Alongside the championship trophy, van der Drift now receives free entry into any remaining TCR Australia round.
The day’s final race was won by Hayden Paddon, who pipped Jaden Ransley over the line by 0.225s.
A lap one collision between Paul Radisich and Greg Murphy at the carousel ruled out the pair and dropped the field to six runners.
Rollinson experienced his dramas moments later, relinquishing second. Van der Drift then slowed to a limp the following lap after his car got locked in gear.
That left Paddon to inherit the race lead. After starting the last following a turbulent morning, Ransley was just behind the rally star.
Ransley latched onto Paddon’s tail for the remainder of the race. But despite his best efforts, he was not able to get past the rival Hyundai.
Jordan Michels claimed third and snared second in the championship standings.
Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes brought home his third fourth-place finish of the day, levelling himself on points with Michels. However, the Honda driver finishes second overall on countback.
2021 TCR New Zealand Points:
- 1. Chris van der Drift – 199pts
- 2. Jordan Michels – 147pts
- 3. Lochlain Fitzgerald-Symes – 147pts
- 4. Gene Rollinson – 134pts
- 5. Hayden Paddon – 129pts
- 6. Greg Murphy – 120pts
- 7. Jaden Ransley – 116pts
- 8. Paul Radisich – 94pts
Main Image: Geoff Ridder