Toyota Racing Series: emotional first victory is retribution for Brazil's Caio Collet
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After having his first win at Highlands Motorsport Park taken away last weekend, Brazilian racer Caio Collet has rebounded to win the opening race of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series' weekend at Teretonga Park in Invercargill.
It's not only Collet's first win in the series, but also the first win for the MTEC Motorsport by R-ace GP organisation after several seasons of trying. Behind the Renault Sport Academy driver, Gregoire Saucy and Igor Fraga finished second and third. Series leader Liam Lawson also starred — carving through the field from 13th on the grid to a deserving sixth.
A series of post-qualifying penalties (in the form of removal of fastest laps) meant that Australia's Jackson Walls would get shuffled from second on the grid to outside the top ten. And similar penalty was handed to Oliver Rasmussen, too. The penalties rounded off a chaotic qualifying session punctuated by a crash that hospitalised series rookie Chelsea Hebert.
Pole-sitter Igor Fraga was unaffected by the penalties, and he was able to get the initial jump off the start before a weak second phase meant that Saucy and second-row starter Collet would challenge for the lead into a three-wide turn one.
Collet took the lead around the outside and looked set to jet into the distance until a hurried safety car at the end of lap one for the stationary car of American Spike Kohlbecker. During the chaotic safety car melee a separate incident unfolded involving Walls and a spinning Yuki Tsunoda at the last corner. The Japanese driver dropped to the back but pressed on, with Walls forced out of the race with front right suspension damage.
The race restarted at the end of lap three, and the next point of discussion was the fightback of Lawson. He had started the race from 13th, but by the restart he had carved his way into the top 10. His push through the field continued (including a brave pass around the outside of José Blanco at turn one) and by lap 12 he had risen to seventh.
Collet looked comfortable in the lead; growing the buffer to second to over three seconds before eventually collecting the first win for himself and MTEC in the Toyota Racing Series with a 1.1-second margin of victory.
Behind him, two battle packs were forming — one for second consisting of Saucy, Fraga, and Franco Colapinto, and another for fifth consisting of Lirim Zendeli, Ido Cohen, and a fast-approaching Lawson. Fraga and Lawson were the fiercest combatants in each group, with Fraga trying but failing to emulate Lawson's spectacular turn-one sweeper pass on Saucy.
In the end Saucy was able to hold second, ahead of Fraga, Colapinto, Cohen, and a fighting Lawson in sixth position. Zendeli, Emilien Denner, Petr Ptacek, and Blanco completed the top 10 finishers.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series Round 2 Teretonga Park results; Race 1
1. Caio Collet
2. Gregoire Saucy
3. Igor Fraga
4. Franco Colapinto
5. Ido Cohen
6. Liam Lawson
7. Lirim Zendeli
8. Emilien Denner
9. Petr Ptacek
10. José Blanco
11. Yuki Tsunoda
12. Lucas Petersson
13. Oliver Rasmussen
14. Axel Gnos
15. Rui Andrade
16. Henning Enqvist
17. Spike Kohlbecker
DNF. Jackson Walls
DNS. Chelsea Herbert