Brazilian sensation Igor Fraga took the Castrol Toyota Racing Series championship lead in dramatic style last weekend and heads to the Motor Cup this weekend at Pukekohe Park as the man to beat in a summer of hot racing in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
Two wins last weekend mean ice-cool Fraga – a champion in eSports as well as a very fine young racing driver – heads to the penultimate round of the 2020 championship with a slender 17 point lead in the title chase over reigning champ and home favourite Liam Lawson.
Fraga’s cause was helped considerably last weekend by drama in the 25 lap feature encounter, a race that dented Lawson’s momentum and helped swing the pendulum in Fraga’s favour. Lawson’s retirement with technical gremlins was a kick in the teeth for the Kiwi and Fraga made the most of that misfortune with his second win of the weekend.
There’s no question that Lawson has the pace, and more importantly the passing ability to win. He overcame a couple of setbacks last season at Hampton Downs to win and this time around will know that if he can do it once, he can do it again. What Fraga has is speed in abundance, consistency and an ability to come through any dramas on the track to bag the points. It’s a fascinating head to head.
It won’t be easy for either Igor or Liam, however. Caio Collet, Grégoire Saucy, Franco Colapinto, Yuki Tsunoda, Petr Ptacek, Emilien Denner, Jackson Walls and Oliver Rasmussen have all showed flashes of brilliance and will be in the mix over the weekend.
It’s a big weekend for New Zealand motorsport and single seater racing in the country. It’s the first time on the new track layout for the Toyota Racing Series cars, the first season with the new FT-60, the biggest field for several seasons and in terms of FIA Super Licence points, the most significant championship season yet.
Pukekohe first hosted the race for the trophy in 1963 and the race remained at the track right through until 1995 – a period that included the Tasman, Formula 5000, Formula Pacific and Formula Holden eras of New Zealand single seater motor racing. It was contested at Pukekohe again in 2000 before a gap of five years. It was back at Pukekohe as part of the original Toyota Racing Series from 2006 where it was contested for four subsequent seasons.
Winners over the decades have included Formula One world champions John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Keke Rosberg as well as other motorsport legends such as Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Prince Bira, Reg Parnell and Chris Amon. More recent Kiwi racers feature prominently on the role of honour as previous winners too, with Craig Baird, Greg Murphy, Simon Wills, Mitch Evans and Ken Smith with two wins each and Paul Radisich, David Oxton, Dave McMillan, Steve Millen, Andy Booth, Andy Knight, Mitch Cunningham, Nick Cassidy and Marcus Armstrong all with a victory in the historic race to their name.
The 18 world class youngsters racing this weekend will begin with testing on Thursday and Friday before qualifying on Saturday morning for Saturday afternoon’s first race. The grid for the first race on Sunday morning will be based on Saturday’s results and will feature a grid with the top six or eight of that result reversed. A second qualifying session on Sunday will set the grid for the final race of the weekend, the NZ Motor Cup.