Cockerton top Kiwi in Toyota championship at Hampton Downs

Pukekohe driver Taylor Cockerton is reflecting on a challenging weekend at his ‘home’ circuit and planning a strong finish to his 2017 Castrol Toyota Racing Series campaign. Coming into the weekend at Hampton Downs sixth in the championship and with good car speed, Cockerton was confident he would bank valuable points across the three races. “We had a good car setup – but so did everyone else! I was a bit disappointed with qualifying, we cracked the 59s in quali two but the whole field has really closed up on speed now.” Cockerton ended up on the sixth row of the 20-strong grid for the Saturday race and fifth row for the feature race – though that improved from P10 to P9 after a competitor caused a red flag and was penalised. The first race, on Saturday afternoon, produced mayhem. Sections of the track had ‘grained’ in the summer sun and the surface in corners was covered in debris. At the end of lap one, Cockerton tried an outside pass on Ameya Vaidyanathan. “I nearly made it stick but had to let him go, then on lap two it all went mad, there was rubbish all over the track surface and cars off the track.” Cockerton said he had passed three drivers in the chaos and was chasing down Kami Laliberte but ran out of laps. The repaired track sections and cooler temperature on Sunday morning shaved up to a second off lap times for the whole field – but the pace had also stepped up. “I started P8 alongside Kami and tried to pass him down the outside at turn four but I nudged the ripple strip and dropped back a couple of places – it happens that quickly!” Soon Cockerton found himself defending aggressive pushes from Ferdinand Habsburg and Jehan Daruvala. “I tried to join the battle between Ameya and Randle but I was fighting for position for the rest of the race, watching my mirrors. Then Daruvala got past with three laps to go. So P9 was a good result,” he said. A good start in the feature race saw Cockerton overtake three cars but then lose one place. “There was not much grip out there, I had to be really careful in the corners. I was hoping to chase down Kami but there was so much going on it was hard to stay away from other cars. Two safety cars bunched us up but the restarts were difficult because the track surface was so slippery,” he said. Holding seventh place to the flag made the weekend “pretty good’ – and Cockerton says he is looking forward to the challenges of Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park next weekend as the Castrol Toyota Racing Series heads into its penultimate round.