Brazilian rookie beats Kiwi champ in Highlands Toyota Racing Series opener
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Brazil's Caio Collet has won the opening race of the 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Highlands Motorsport Park, leading home Liam Lawson after a fascinating battle between the two young drivers.
The victory is not only the first for Renault Sport Academy junior driver, but it also breaks a significant drought for MTEC after years of dominance from the likes of Lawson's M2 Competition.
“It was a really good race,” said Collet. “We had a lot of pressure, but I think we had a really good car and really good pace. I wasn’t expecting the Safety Car, but it was good to come out with the win. My restart didn’t go as expected, it was really close. There was a lot of pressure but I’m glad we could come out with the win.”
Collet had claimed pole for the series opener earlier in the day with a blistering 1:28.105 — the quickest lap ever set at the Cromwell circuit. He led Lawson, Lirim Zendeli, GT Sport world champion Igor Fraga, and Gregoire Saucy by qualifying's end.
Off the start the order of the leading pair was unchanged, with Zendeli dropping from third to fourth behind Fraga and ahead of Saucy. The race quickly settled into a rhythm, with Collet and Lawson dropping a lonely Fraga over the following 10 laps — the margin between the two leaders rarely going over a second.
What broke the race's rhythm was a safety car with five laps to go, caused by a spin on the entry to the bridge for Sweden's Henning Enqvist. He pirouetted through the sand trap before softly hitting the tyre wall, forcing a pause in the race as well as a short race to the chequered flag.
The race restarted with a one-lap sprint to the chequered flag. Lawson made an exceptional restart to apply the most pressure he'd shown since the start of the race. With Fraga again fading off the back in third, Lawson was able to continue his push for the lead — however, Collet was able to hold on to win on his series debut with MTEC by just a tenth of a second.
Former ADAC Formula 4 champion Zendeli ended up holding station in fourth; leading Saucy, Red Bull's Yuki Tsunoda, Oliver Rasmussen, Petr Ptacek, Franco Colapinto, and Ido Cohen in 10th. Meanwhile, in her debut in the series fellow Kiwi Chelsea Herbert finished 17th.
The category's second qualifying session of the weekend is scheduled for 9.25am tomorrow on Sky Sport 55, with race two and race three of the weekend following at 12.10pm and 4.20pm respectively.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series Round 1 Highlands Motorsport Park results; Race 1
1. Caio Collet
2. Liam Lawson
3. Igor Fraga
4. Lirim Zendeli
5. Gregoire Saucy
6. Yuki Tsunoda
7. Oliver Rasmussen
8. Petr Ptacek
9. Franco Colapinto
10. Ido Cohen
11. Emilien Denner
12. Jackson Walls
13. Spike Kohlbecker
14. Rui Andrade
15. Axel Gnos
16. Lucas Peterssen
17. Chelsea Herbert
18. Henning Enqvist
19. Jose Blanco