Wins for Kiwi young guns overseas
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Last weekend was a successful one for New Zealand motorsport, with drivers winning races in Japan, Malaysia, and Australia. Included in that mix were teenagers Liam Lawson and Taylor Cockerton, who won while debuting in separate overseas wings-and-slicks championships.
The success of the two drivers comes as New Zealand's "junior" open-wheel categories enjoy a boom period, thanks to strong grids of quality drivers. Lawson recently claimed the 2016-17 NZ Formula 1600 championship, while Cockerton is one of the many drivers from the Castrol Toyota Racing Series to graduate into an international championship for 2017.
Cockerton took his win at the opening round of the Formula Masters Series at Malaysia's Sepang Circuit. The Bombay-based 19-year-old set the weekend's tone by claiming a pole position early on -- and while a crash robbed him of a result in the first race, a podium in race two put him back on the right track. Victory in race three proved his mettle.
"I'm just so happy to get the win for everyone who has helped me get here," Cockerton told Driven.
"Being competitive was definitely the plan. At the moment, there are around four or five guys who are really quick, and thankfully we are as quick as them so far. I'll be looking to carry this momentum into round two.
"Apart from being taken out by another driver in race one, the racing has been clean. I think there's going to be some great battles later in the season."
Lawson wreaked havoc over the ditch in his first weekend racing in the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship -- a growing open-wheel class that shares the same four-wheeled platform as a range of other "F4" championships around the world.
Liam lawon on debut in Australia's CAMS Jayco Formula 4 Championship. Photo / Supplied
The category's first two rounds of the year were crammed into two days at Sandown Raceway in Victoria, which gave drivers the unusual task of taking on six races in one weekend.
Despite no experience in the series barring pre-season testing, Lawson was on the podium in every race -- grabbing two lights-to-flag wins on the way. The 15-year-old now leads the championship standings -- and now ranks as the only Kiwi to race in, win in, and lead the points of the Australian Formula 4 Championship.
"The weekend went way better than I expected. To lead the championship after two rounds is a great reward for all those at home who've supported me -- especially RetroCar in Christchurch. Without them I wouldn't have been on the grid," he said.
They two drivers form part of our next generation of stars, which includes the likes of Brendon Leitch and Marcus Armstrong -- both also committed to overseas programmes. All are on the hunt to become the next Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley, or Scott Dixon.