Cromwell-based driver Brendon Leitch experienced the good and the bad that comes with motorsport over the two-day 2017 Castrol Toyota Racing Series (TRS) round three at Teretonga Park last weekend.
After a promising podium finish in the early stages of the weekend, an incident on the Sunday morning cost him any chance of further top results at what is essentially his home track, having grown up in Invercargill.
The round started well as Leitch, who works as an apprentice mechanic and hot laps driver at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell, set the fastest times in both practice sessions on Friday. He then tackled two qualifying sessions on Saturday morning - the first to establish the order for the opening race on Saturday and the second to sort the order for the feature race on Sunday afternoon. Leitch took his ITM FT-50 to third-fastest time in the first session before setting the fastest qualifying time for the feature.
In the opening race on Saturday, Leitch raced to second - running third behind Australian Thomas Randle and Richard Verschoor, of the Netherlands, for the entire distance - only to be promoted to second place after Leitch's Victory Motor Racing team-mate Randle was penalised for a jump start. The result elevated Leitch to third-equal on the series points table.
Sunday morning dawned wet and Leitch started from position three for the morning race, only to be caught up in an incident with United Kingdom driver Enaam Ahmed at the first corner, sliding off the track and out of the race. Brazilian Pedro Piquet went on to win the race.
The Victory Motor Racing team hastily repaired Leitch's car for the feature race. However, in the time available, the car was far from perfect and Leitch dropped back through the field as the race progressed. The car's handling deteriorated in the conditions, as its chassis began to flex increasingly, probably as a result of the morning accident. Leitch eventually finished the race in seventh, the same position he now holds on the points table.
He said the team ‘‘did a fantastic job and gave me the best car they could'' for the final race. ‘‘They had 10 people working on it. We broke a bellhousing and other bits in the incident and there were parts required that were hard to source. The car was pretty hard to drive and I just had to push on,'' he said. In a quick turn-around between events, Leitch will be racing in round three of the five- round TRS series at Hampton Downs in north Waikato this weekend. ‘‘We have good speed there,'' he said.
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