Pedro Piquet has made the Castrol Toyota Racing Series a three way battle after winning the first preliminary race at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild this afternoon.

The Brazilian is now only five points behind series leader Thomas Randle from Melbourne who could only finish fifth from his sixth starting position.

Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch was involved in a spectacular crash on the second lap which was no fault of his.

The cars of Luis Leeds (Australia) and Keyvan Andres (USA) touched wheels and slid across the track in front of him as they went through the infield curves at the Manawatu track.

Leitch had nowhere to go and rode up over the wheels of the cars in front of him which launched him somersaulting into the air. “I think I saw the sky twice,” said Leitch, who walked away from his car after it had come to rest. Video replays showed the car looping over three times in mid-air before coming back to earth. “I reckon that would be worth a ten at the Olympics,” quipped a philosophical Leitch afterwards. “It’s motorsport. You’ve got to take it on the chin. We’ll be back out tomorrow and hopefully get a decent result.”

The race was stopped. Initially Piquet had won the drag race to the first corner and driven around the outside of pole sitter Jehan Daruvala from India.

At the restart, Piquet had an anxious moment when his engine wouldn’t fire up, but the one mechanic allowed at the car pushed started it into life. He was then able to drive away from Daruvala to win by four seconds, with Christchurch’s Marcus Armstrong completing the podium.

Dutch teenager Richard Verschoor finished fourth, but has dropped back to third in the point’s standings after starting the race in second place. Randle closed to within a few car lengths of Verschoor after spending the first half of the race trying to find a way past fellow country man Harry Hayek.

“Harry made it hard for me,” said Randle. “I got close to Richard, but then the dirty air coming off his car made it difficult to get closer.”

All three drivers are still in with a chance to win the Castrol Toyota Racing Series title with two races to go including the 62nd New Zealand Grand Prix, where Piquet will start second on the grid, Randle third and Verschoor fifth.

In the morning’s preliminary race, Verschoor will have the advantage, starting from pole, with Piquet fourth and Randle fifth. The mathematical calculations are almost endless!

Results.-
Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Round 5, 20 laps, Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild.

1, Pedro Piquet (Brazil);
2, Jehan Daruvala (India);
3, Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch);
4, Richard Verschoor (Netherlands);
5, Thomas Randle (Australia)
6, Enaam Ahmed (England);
7, Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe);
8, Ferdinand Habsburg (Austria);
9, Luis Leeds (Australia);
10, Shelby Blackstock (USA).

Series points.-
1, Randle, 741;
2, Piquet, 736;
3, Verschoor, 719
4, Jehan Daruvala, 664;
5, Armstrong, 658;
6, Ahmed, 541;
7, Cockerton, 492;
8, Kami Laliberte (Canada), 469;
9, Habsburg, 461;
10, Brendon Leitch (Invercargill), 463

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