Liam Lawson dominates Toyota Racing Series Cromwell finale, claims early title lead
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Kiwi Liam Lawson has successfully followed up his Saturday Castrol Toyota Racing Series success with victory in Sunday's Dorothy Smith Memorial Trophy feature race. He now leads the championship points heading into round two of the series next weekend in Invercargill.
The the day's earlier opening sprint race featured a partially reversed grid, with the top six from race one's finishing order being swapped around — leading to Oliver Rasmussen and Tsunoda starting from the front row ahead of Gregoire Saucy and Lirim Zendeli.
Tsunoda [pictured below] won the start and shot off to claim a clear cut maiden win in the series, in his Red Bull–backed M2 Competition FT-60. He led Rasmussen by a second over the line, with another second back to Zendeli (claiming his second straight podium in the process). Saucy, Lawson, Igor Fraga, Franco Colapinto, Petr Ptacek, Jackson Walls, and Emilien Denner filled the remainder of the top 10. Missing from that order was Saturday star Caio Collet. After making minor contact with a wall on lap one he was forced to retire.
Collet's race three appeared to have more promise. He would start next to pole-sitter Lawson on the front row with Colapinto, Fraga, and Saucy in tow. But, a late mechanical blue with his front left suspension (lingering issues from his race two incident) saw him pull off the track and into pit-lane prior to the race start. This left Lawson all alone on the front row, and after winning the start he was able to manage the gap to second effectively to win the 20-lapper by two seconds.
The race went largely without incident, save for a scary airborne slide out of the Southern Loop for Rui Andrade and a believed suspension issue for Australian returnee Jackson Walls. He and his repaired car wound up prompting a safety car later.
Behind Lawson, Colapinto claimed an impressive second place. The Argentine's rate of improvement over the course of the weekend was clear to see; results on the edge of the top 10 building towards a convincing podium ahead of Fraga.
On lap 12 a safety car was called for the stranded car of Walls, compressing the field and erasing Lawson's gap of over three seconds. Lawson was able to get an excellent restart, and by the end of the lap the margin was back out to 1.2 seconds. Colapinto was facing fierce pressure from Fraga and Tsunoda behind, but the Brazilian was able to fend them off to complete a strong all-round weekend.
Tsunoda and Saucy completed the top five ahead of Ptacek — the Czech driver having made a range of brave and physical passes (underlined by a lengthy battle with Ido Cohen) to finish sixth. Zendeli, Denner, and Lucas Petersson rounded out the top 10. Chelsea Herbert, completing the Kiwi contingent, finished 16th.
The series now travels to Invercarill's Teretonga Park for round two next weekend, where this year's recipient of the Spirit of the Nation Cup.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series Round 1 Highlands Motorsport Park results; Race 3
1. Liam Lawson
2. Franco Coapinto
3. Igor Fraga
4. Yuki Tsunoda
5. Gregoire Saucy
6. Petr Ptacek
7. Ido Cohen
8. Lirim Zendeli
9. Emilien Denner
10. Lucas Petersson
11. Axel Gnos
12. Spike Kohlbecker
13. José Blanco
14. Henning Enqvist
15. Rui Andrade
16. Chelsea Herbert
17. Oliver Rasmussen
DNF. Jackson Walls
DNF. Caio Collet
DNS. Amoury Cordeel