Norris gets silverware double-shot, while Leitch clings onto championship podium
M2 Competition's Lando Norris has won the 2016 Toyota Racing Series championship, sealing the title by winning the 61st New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Autocourse. Norris is the first English driver to win the Grand Prix since Jackie Stewart in 1967.
After scoring pole position for the series finale, Norris led the race from start to finish, despite the best efforts of M2 Pedro Piquet and Artem Markelov.
Piquet pipped Markelov on the finish-line for second place, only to be struck down with a 30-second penalty post race for making a pass during a double-yellow flag. This saw the Brazilian tumble down the order to 16th.
Embroiled in the battle for third place in the championship, Piquet's penalty saw New Zealander Brendan Leitch secure third place — the top Kiwi in the series standings, and Leitch's best series result after three tilts at the championship.
“To be able to come third in this motor racing series, the most prestigious series in New Zealand and some of the best drivers in the world — that's awesome,” said Leitch.
“It's great for my career, and hopefully we can come back again next year.”
ITM's Brendon Leitch was able to bounce back from poor results in qualifying to hold onto third in the points. Photo / Simon Chapman
It was a doubly successful day for Leitch as he and his ITM FT-50 also won race two at the beginning of the day, after starting off the front row of the grid. Having spent most of his season quietly accumulating points, it was his first win of the year.
“The car has been fantastic. It was an awesome weekend, and to come away with the win this morning was a bit of a confidence booster.”
Leitch wasn't the only Kiwi to taste success, as James Munro and Taylor Cockerton also enjoyed competitive pace. Munro was able to back up a second-place finish in Saturday's race with sixth in race two and fourth in the Grand Prix event — first New Zealander home.
Cockerton meanwhile rounded off his best weekend yet with a sixth place in the Grand Prix, ending his season in ninth in the points.
With the season now over, Norris now heads off to Europe for dual cracks at the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and Northern Eurocup titles.
Photos / Simon Chapman
New Zealand Grand Prix results
1. Lando Norris 2. Artem Markelov 3. Ferdinand Habsburg 4. James Munro 5. Thomas Randle 6. Taylor Cockerton 7. Jehan Daruvala 8. Kami Laliberté 9. Bruno Baptista 10. Brendon Leitch