Leitch survives monster crash, Piquet closes TRS title fight
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Second-generation racer Pedro Piquet has won the opening race of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series weekend at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, after completing a comprehensive lights-to-flag victory to beat M2 Competition teammates Jehan Daruvala and Christchurch driver Marcus Armstrong.
Starting from second next to pole-sitter Daruvala, Piquet made the best jump off the line to lead the field as they exited turn one. From there the Brazilian was untouchable — eventually winning by 3.453 seconds.
The win further tightens the margins in the championship standings with just two races left to go; Piquet [pictured below] now just five points behind series leader Thomas Randle, who finished the first race in fifth place behind fellow title contender Richard Verschoor.
Verschoor now slides to third in the championship, ahead of Daruvala and Armstrong.
While the championship fight is getting tight, the biggest moment of the race came on the second lap via a monstrous three-car crash.
The driver who took on the most damage was Invercargill driver Brendon Leitch, who's ITM-backed FT-50 was sent into a vicious cartwheel following the midfield esses.
“I'm good, just a bit sore. But that's definitely the biggest shunt I've ever had,” Leitch told Driven.
Starting from 10th place on the grid, Leitch had made a clean get away to entangle himself in a battle with the Giles Motorsport pairing of Kayvan Andres and Luis Leeds. But as the trio navigated the esses for a second time, Andres and Leeds made contact — Leitch clipping one of the pair while attempting to take evasive action.
“I couldn't tell you 100 per cent really [what happened],” said Leitch.
“I haven't seen any footage apart from some stuff from the TV. They made contact — I don't know how it happened — and that fired the guy beside me into me.
“Then by the looks of it some part of his car hit my rear wheel and sent me up in the air. The rest of the thing happened within about two seconds.”
Despite the spectacular accident, Leitch was able to get out of the car relatively unscathed, with Andres and Leeds also uninjured. Shortly after the race the car had already been stripped back for inspection, with Leitch saying that he expects to be back in action for tomorrow's final two races.
“Nothing's not fixable. The car is actually not as bad as we may have thought — I've seen far worse,” he said.
“We'll be back out there, 100 per cent. We'll be ready in about half an hour just about.
“It's just a couple of things, and a nose box — I've done a bit of gardening and filled the entire nose box up with dirt. Pulled a couple of Gs, but it's not really too bad. Hurts the budget a little bit, but nothing too serious.
“We'll get it back out there in the morning.”
Races two and three of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon take place tomorrow, with the final race of the weekend, and the season, doubling as the 62nd New Zealand Grand Prix.
1. Pedro Piquet
2. Jehan Daruvala
3. Marcus Armstrong
4. Richard Verschoor
5. Thomas Randle
6. Enaam Ahmed
7. Taylor Cockerton
8. Ferdinand Habsburg
9. Luis Leeds
10. Shelby Blackstock