Roman Bilinski resisted race-long pressure from Liam Sceats to take his sixth Formula Regional Oceania win in race one at Ruapuna.
A lap one incident involving Kaden Probst and Titus Sherlock prompted a lengthy red flag interruption early on, and as soon as the race restarted Sceats put the pressure on title rival Bilinski but could not force him into a mistake and had to settle for second.
Probst and Sherlock’s accident occurred before the field even reached turn one. Bryce Aron and Probst were side-by-side when the two made slight contact. Probst started to spin and collected Sherlock, who was just ahead and also started to spin. Those behind had to take avoiding action, but nobody else was caught up in the incident. Probst and Sherlock were left stranded in the gravel while Aron lost five places.
Bilinski, who had held the lead off the line from pole the first time around, made an early break for it on the rolling restart.
Sceats dropped slightly back but was soon filling Bilinski’s mirrors again keeping the pressure on. Although he seemed to have the stronger pace at many points in the race, Sceats could not create an overtaking opportunity. In the final laps, Bilinski displayed his superior tyre management by setting the fastest lap two times in a row – though this was taken by Aron before the chequered flag. Bilinski finished just half a second clear of Sceats to extend his points lead.
Behind was an equally tight battle for third. Jacob Abel had held third off the line ahead of Kaleb Ngatoa. The two broke away after the restart, but were then joined by Alex Crosbie as they started to battle. These three cars were evenly matched throughout the race, and there was no way for Ngatoa to force a way through to third. By the chequered flag, Crosbie was closer to Ngatoa than Ngatoa was to Abel, but there was no change in position.
Gerrard Xie held off Patrick Woods-Toth to finish sixth, with Michael Shin in eighth.
Aron had been 12th on the restart, with only Jake Bonilla behind. The championship newcomer and Indy Nxt regular made a storming start to climb up to 10th and continued to try to pick his way through the order. He managed to find a way past Jett Bowling and was closing in on Shin when the chequered flag fell.
Race results (20 laps)
|Landan Matriano Lim
|Fastest lap: Aron, 1m18.017s