Robert Shwartzman became the fourth different feature race winner in four weekends of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, when he won the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo this afternoon.
He led from start to finish. “It’s a really good feeling,” said the 18 year old from St Petersburg, who has had a succession of seconds and thirds over the previous 11 races.
Last weekend, Richard Verschoor (Netherlands) won the New Zealand Motor Cup at Hampton Downs, while Clement Novalak (England) was the big winner at Teretonga and Marcus Armstrong took out the Lady Wigram Trophy at Ruapuna, Christchurch on his home track.
Victory has closed Shwartzman to within 33 points of series leader Armstrong, who finished second, while third placed Verschoor is another 27 points back in third place.
Shwartzman had to overcome his first safety car restart after the race was stopped when London based teenager Novalak went off the track and ripped the rear suspension and gearbox off his car. He stepped from the wreckage un-injured.
“I’ve never led a safety car restart before,” said Shwartzman. He managed the situation without any mistakes and as the race progressed he gradually built a lead on Armstrong.
His success was built on a stunning qualifying lap for pole position on Saturday, under the lap record and half a second faster than anybody else, an almost unheard of margin in the Toyota Racing Series. “I think this track suited me better,” said Shwartzman. “There are more corners. It’s more like a European track.”
In the last five laps Shwartzman said his car’s tyres had lost their best grip and he eased off, but the rest of the field was suffering the same problem, notably James Pull (England), who conceded sixth place to Cameron Das (USA) on the last corner of the last lap.
Earlier Pull had put a fifth placed Brendan Leitch (Invercargill) under pressure and even got ahead when he took a short cut at the S bends at the end of the back straight, but then gave the position back.
Leitch had won the morning’s preliminary reverse grid race, to have his best weekend of the series and has climbed to seventh on the points table. In the same race, Christchurch’s Ryan Yardley had driven well defensively to fend off Verschoor for the whole race.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Round 4, Taupo, Race 2, 15 laps.
1, B Leitch (Invercargill);
2, R Yardley (Christchurch);
3, R Verschoor (Netherlands);
4, M Armstrong (Christchurch)
5, R Shwartzman (Russia);
6, T Cockerton (Pukekohe);
7, R Harker (Albany);
8, J Pull (England);
9, J-M Correa (USA);
10, C Novalak (England).
Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, 20 laps
6, C Das (USA);
8, C Milesi (France);
Progress points after 12 of 15 races.
1, Armstrong, 761;
2, Shwartzman, 728;
3, Verschoor, 701;
4, Correa, 612;
5, Pull, 581;
6, C Novalak (England) 539;
7, Leitch, 456;
8, Cockerton, 448;
9, Harker, 430;
10, Yardley, 416.