Home Formula RegionalFRegional Oceania Tasman’s van der Drift tops final practice session for New Zealand GP

Tasman’s van der Drift tops final practice session for New Zealand GP

by Ida Wood

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing NZ

Tasman Motorsports Group’s Chris van der Drift continued to set the pace at Hampton Downs in the final free practice session for the Toyota Racing Series season opener.

Superleague Formula race-winner van der Drift was fastest across the three sessions held on Friday, and began Saturday by topping the times again in FP4.

The last practice session was red flagged twice, first almost immediately after action had begun, and then a second time shortly after the first flying laps had been set.

It was van der Drift who was fastest from the off, pumping in a 1m30.962s lap on the circuit’s International layout before the second red flag and then bringing that down to a 1m30.248s in the 13 minutes that remained of the session.

Two-time series champion Daniel Gaunt was his closest rival before the stoppage, with Formula Ford graduate Kaleb Ngatoa then taking over second place once driving resumed.

He was shuffled down to fourth before improving to reclaim second place with just under five minutes to go.

Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen then briefly moved up the order before more improvements came in.

As the drivers came through on the next time around it was Gaunt who was back in second, and he stayed there even when those behind got faster on their final laps.

Van Gisbergen lifted himself up to third, just ahead of Ngatoa, while karting graduate Matthew Payne (whose single-seater experience only extended to the competitive mileage in lower formulas required to compete in TRS) was impressively just 0.399s off the pace in fifth.

The top 13 drivers in the 16-car grid were covered by under a second, with New Zealand motorsport icon Kenny Smith improving his pace at the back to lap 7.242s slower than van der Drift.

Smith will be racing in the New Zealand Grand Prix, which is the third and final race of the weekend, for the 50th time in his career.

Free practice results
Pos Driver Time Laps
1 Chris van der Drift 1m30.248s 12
2 Daniel Gaunt +0.235s 13
3 Shane van Gisbergen +0.341s 12
4 Kaleb Ngatoa +0.367s 12
5 Matthew Payne +0.399s 12
6 Brendon Leitch +0.509s 13
7 Peter Vodanovich +0.568s 7
8 Andre Heimgartner +0.688s 9
9 Conrad Clark +0.869s 11
10 Damon Leitch +0.915s 12
11 Tom Alexander +0.922s 10
12 Greg Murphy +0.961s 12
13 Billy Frazer +0.999s 10
14 Chris Vlok +1.402s 10
15 Josh Bethune +1.975s 10
16 Kenny Smith +7.242s 8