Taylor Cockerton wins Formula Masters title
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Taylor Cockerton is the 2017 Formula Masters Series champion after a close fought battle with rival competitor Daniel Lu and the title being decided in the final race of the weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit in China.
Cockerton finished fourth in the first race and then went on to record three race wins to clinch the championship when Lu faded and finished fifth in the final decider.
"It has been a roller-coaster weekend," commented Cockerton. "At one stage we had dropped to 27 points behind Lu with his winning the first race and my finishing fourth. We were able to rescue the situation with some good race wins and reducing the gap to just nine points and one race to go.
"All the races were in pretty treacherous wet conditions which in the end played to my advantage. I started on pole for the final race knowing that I needed to win and have Daniel (Lu) finish no higher than fourth.
"It was quite nerve-racking and I was literally tip-toeing around the (wet) track. I crossed the line to win not knowing where Daniel finished until my engineer told me that he had finished in fifth."
"I'm incredibly thankful to those who have supported me and especially to Pinnacle Motorsport for providing such a great car all season and having confidence in me all weekend. I had nothing to lose and took a number of risks knowing I had the experience in these conditions and when the pressure is on."
The Waikato University student qualified third fastest in Q1 and fifth fastest in Q2 and then faced race one on Saturday morning in terrible conditions.
"We actually started under safety car and I gained a position of the first lap with someone else spinning off in front of me. The first two laps were atrocious. It was that wet I was getting wheel spin on the back straight from the standing water."
After a second safety car period Cockerton aquaplaned off the track losing two position and having to settle for fourth after the race was eventually finished under another safety car period.
Having set the fastest lap in race one, Cockerton was on pole for the second race of the weekend but wheel spin on a damp track dropped him to second heading into the first turn. Better setup changes between the first two races enabled Cockerton to eventually regain the lead on the final lap and take the chequered flag.
"It was a cool feeling to get back up to the top of the podium," commented Cockerton. "I thought our championship hopes were all but done, but this solid result gave us more hope heading into Sunday's final two races.
With the points gap at 20 heading into the penultimate round, Cockerton's win then reduced it to just nine points, the advantage swinging in his favour.
"It was all about the pressure of the whole final round. It was an advantage for me as I had nothing to lose being in second place. Daniel (Lu) had to conserve all the time where I could go all out."
The final race win of the series sealed the title for the Cockerton who becomes the second Kiwi driver to win the series after Christchurch's James Munro won back in 2014.
"I think we will let the dust settle and enjoy the win," said Cockerton. "Then we will look at what opportunities open up for us and make decisions from there."