Daruvala avoids chaos to win Lady Wigram Trophy
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Daruvala wins iconic trophy as New Zealanders stumble in Toyota Racing Series
After a chaotic final day of racing, Jehan Daruvala has earned himself the Lady Wigram Trophy after winning the final race of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series' opening round at Mike Pero Motorsport Park.
“It means a lot to me. It was my first ever victory in this car last year, and to do it again is really special,” Daruvala told Driven.
“Especially since I had a bad race in the morning. Things didn’t go to plan, and right now everything we planned went to plan. The start, the restarts, everything, I nailed them all and I’m happy with the win.”
The consistent Richard Verschoor leaves round one with the provisional championship lead (181 points), ahead of Thomas Randle (178), Jehan Daruvala (142), Ferdinand Habsburg (136), and Marcus Armstrong (135).
The final day of racing included two races for the series; both of which were punctuated by drama.
The opening race was led from the front by Bombay-based driver Taylor Cockerton. The MTEC Motorsport pilot had pulled pole position for the race by virtue of a partial reverse-grid start, and was able to hold off the force of Pedro Piquet to cross the line in first to collect a maiden race win.
However Cockerton would incur a post-race 10-second penalty for jumping the race start. With Piquet also receiving a penalty (for excessive blocking) the win would be handed to Australian Thomas Randle —his first ever win in the series.
Cockerton's penalty dropped him down to fourth place behind Richard Verschoor and Saturday race winner Marcus Armstrong — though the Kiwi is still looking at the positives.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s the way it is. Unfortunately the cruel hand of motorsport spun us today and it’s just the way it goes,” Cockerton said.
“A penalty is a penalty, so you’ve got to take it. If it was someone else I’m sure they’d take it as well. You can’t jump the start, but like I say, it was marginal.
“I think heading into Teretonga we’ll certainly be pretty happy knowing we had good pace. We can bring that into the next round.”
Series favourite Daruvala endured an even tougher opening Sunday race, after damage saw him retire early. But fate would reward him later in the afternoon.
Starting from pole, he was able to fend off an early challenge from Armstrong. He then retained the lead of the race from flag to flag to win his first race of the season as well as the Lady Wigram Trophy.
Behind Daruvala though a wild race would unfold. Yesterday's hero Armstrong was the first to fall, after a mistake on the first lap dropped him down the order, before further issues saw him stop on track on the following lap.
After eventually restarting, Armstrong was given a lifeline by a caution for a crash on the back straight. Then on the race restart Armstong was able to leap from the tail of the grid all the way to 11th.
He did so via a messy restart for his midfield rivals. As the train rounded the final corner there were numerous cars throughout the bottom end of the top 10.
Nose-to-tail contact was made, and while some cars like Armstrong luckily emerged unscathed, others like Keyvan Andres weren't so fortunate — the German Giles Motorsport driver spinning around and coming to a rest in the middle of the front straight.
The race then became suspended for a short period before restarting — at which point Armstrong continued his charge. He quickly jumped from 11th to ninth, making short work of traffic.
But he too would eventually fall foul of contact after colliding with Harry Hayek at the final corner while dicing for eighth. The move ended his race, and dropped him to fifth place in the championship.
In Armstrong's absence, and with electrical issues stunting Cockerton's race, the leading New Zealander across the line was ITM racer Brendon Leitch [pictured above].
The title fight is wide open entering round two of the series — Daruvala's win helping affirm his desires to clinch the title in five weekend's time.
“I think I deserved the win this weekend with the speed I showed. The team deserves a lot of credit for the work they’ve done and I’m happy with the result,” he said.
“It’s still round one, but like I said, I was 57-points behind [Armstrong], and now I’m ahead. So it can change with one DNF.
“[The championship] will be my target this year, but right now I just want to keep qualifying up the front and winning races.”
The second round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will take place next weekend on January 21–22 at Teretonga in Invercargill — with the Spirit of the Nation Cup up for grabs.