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Sceats on pole for New Zealand GP as Bilinski crashes out of qualifying

by Bethonie Waring

Photo: TGR NZ

Liam Sceats took pole position for the New Zealand Grand Prix as Formula Regional Oceania title rival Roman Bilinski crashed out of qualifying.

There were three segments to qualifying, with Q1 deciding the grid for race one. The top 13 progressed to Q2, then the top eight in that segment progressed to Q3 where the grid for race three – the grand prix – was set.

Bilinski’s morning ended in Q1 after losing control of his car on the Southern Loop at Highlands Motorsports Park. He was top of the order when he brought out red flags, but will be demoted to fourth on the grid for race one and his failure to set a lap in Q2 due to his car being too damaged to return to track means he will start race two from the seventh row of the grid.

He got off to a good start in Q1, setting a 1m28.011s to lead Callum Hedge. An off for Titus Sherlock brought out red flags after seven minutes, and the session clock and paused. Action had only just resumed when Bilinski had his moment. The points leader made contact with the outside wall, damaging the rear of his car and halting Q1 again.

The rest of the field were able to get back out for final runs, but nobody could beat Bilinski’s benchmark laptime. Sceats came closest with his final lap, going 0.264 seconds slower than him. However, Bilinski’s grid penalty for causing the red flags meant Sceats earned race one pole.

Callum Hedge was third quickest ahead of Michael Shin and Jacob Abel. Kaleb Ngatoa and Gerrard Xie were sixth and seventh.

Xie set the pace early in Q2 with a time two tenths of a second slower than the top time from Q1. Hedge later jumped up to first, still 0.245s slower than the pace from qualifying’s first segment since he and his rivals were on the same set of tyres as before, and remained there to the chequered flag. 

Moments after the clock reached zero, Shin had a high-speed impact with the wall at the final corner, significantly damaging his car. Ngatoa clipped the grass on the inside of the corner and then also smashed into the wall, his second major incident of the weekend after a crash in practice. The incident meant red flags waved, but only impacted Ryder Quinn who was unable to complete his final flying lap and lost the opportunity to progress to Q3.

It was Abel who set the pace in the opening laps of Q3, but laptimes quickly tumbled. The Indy Nxt regular lowered the time to beat down to 1m27.913s, but was then knocked off top spot by Sceats and Hedge. 

Sceats lowered the fastest lap again to 1m27.720s to take pole for the grand prix by 0.036s over Hedge. Abel and Xie qualified third and fourth, and Alex Crosbie’s final lap demoted Bryce Aron to sixth.

Shin and Ngatoa were unable to participate but will still start seventh and eighth, although Ngatoa will miss race one due to his damaged car and has gone to hospital for an X-ray on his hand.

Qualifying results
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Liam Sceats M2 Competition 1m28.275s 1m28.342s 1m27.720s
2 Callum Hedge MTEC Motorsport 1m28.362s 1m28.189s 1m27.756s
3 Jacob Abel MTEC Motorsport 1m28.504s 1m28.586s 1m27.913s
4 Gerrard Xie M2 Competition 1m28.607s 1m28.246s 1m28.013s
5 Alex Crosbie Giles Motorsport 1m28.690s 1m28.643s 1m28.043s
6 Bryce Aron M2 Competition 1m28.616s 1m28.590s 1m28.078s
7 Michael Shin M2 Competition 1m28.433s 1m28.347s
8 Kaleb Ngatoa Giles Motorsport 1m28.575s 1m28.478s
9 Elliott Cleary MTEC Motorsport 1m28.832s 1m28.706s
10 Ryder Quinn M2 Competition 1m28.727s 1m28.720s
11 Patrick Woods-Toth Kiwi Motorsport 1m28.942s 1m28.826s
12 Jett Bowling Kiwi Motorsport 1m28.848s 1m28.906s
13 Roman Bilinski M2 Competition 1m28.011s
14 Sebastian Manson Giles Motorsport 1m29.055s
15 Titus Sherlock Kiwi Motorsport 1m29.254s
16 Lucas Fecury MTEC Motorsport 1m29.408s
17 Landan Matriano Lim Giles Motorsport 1m29.744s
18 Jake Bonilla Kiwi Motorsport 1m30.410s