A dramatic last five laps of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, has seen Russian driver Robert Shwartzman win the championship and Richard Verschoor of the Netherlands win the New Zealand Grand Prix.
For 30 lap’s series leader Marcus Armstrong from Christchurch had led the race after winning the start from pole sitter Verschoor from the outside of the front row of the grid.
At the start of the 31st lap Verschoor saw an opportunity to attempt a passing move on Armstrong.
“He made a small mistake and I took my chance,” said Verschoor who charged down the inside into the first corner and forced Armstrong wide.
At that stage Armstrong’s second place was still good enough to give him the title. But then Taylor Cockerton parked his car on the outside of the first corner with an engine problem.
The safety car came out while marshals removed the car from its dangerous position. After four laps the safety car pulled off and as the cars accelerated on the restart for the one lap sprint to the chequered flag, Armstrong’s engine spluttered as other cars streamed past him.
He finished seventh with his title hopes gone.
Verschoor won with Shwartzman second and taking enough points to take the title.
“We had got to the last lap and I was disappointed there was not much I could do,” said Shwartzman. “Then suddenly I finish second and I am the champion. It’s incredible. Amazing.”
For all of the race, Shwartzman had run fourth behind, Armstrong, Verschoor and French teenager Charles Milesi, but he had managed a passing move on the 16 year old at the restart.
Ken Smith finished 12th in his 47th start in the race and the 76 year old is determined to start his 48th Grand Prix in 12 months’ time.
Verschoor finished the series with victory in six of the 15 races, while Shwartzman only won once, but with the Grand Prix win, was the most consistent.
Armstrong had two wins, like Brendan Leitch (Invercargill), Juan Manuel Correa (Ecuador) and Clement Novalak (England).
Earlier in the day Leitch from Invercargill won the preliminary race from Novalak (England) and Verschoor.
The results from that race had seen Armstrong start the Grand Prix with just a 10 points lead over Shwartzman, with Verschoor a further 13 behind.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Round 5, Manfeild, Race 2.
1, Brendon Leitch (Invercargill);
2, Clement Novalak (England);
3, Richard Verschoor (Netherlands);
4, Robert Shwartzman (Russia);
5, Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch);
6, Juan Manuel Correa (USA);
7, Cameron Das (USA);
8, James Pull (England);
9, Reid Harker (Albany);
10, Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe)
New Zealand Grand Prix, 35 laps (Top 10)
3, Charles Milesi (France);
8, Ryan Yardley (Christchurch);
Final points after 15 races (Top 10).
1, Shwartzman, 916;
2, Verschoor, 911;
3, Armstrong, 901;
4, Correa, 756;
5 Novalak, 711;
6, Pull, 692;
7, Leitch, 634;
8, Harker, 538;
9, Yardley, 525;
10, Cockerton, 514.