Superleague Formula race-winner Chris van der Drift ended the first day of the Toyota Racing Series season at the top of the times at Hampton Downs.
The 34-year-old went fastest in the two Friday afternoon practice sessions for the New Zealand Grand Prix-awarding round, with the faster laptimes being set in the latter session for most of the field.
The Tasman Motorsports Group driver ended up with a 0.197-second advantage over M2 Competition’s karting graduate Matthew Payne in FP3, with series veteran Brendon Leitch denying Payne second place in FP2 by 0.002s with a late lap.
Andre Heimgartner was the quickest of the cameoing Australian Supercars drivers in fourth, with Shane van Gisbergen next best of those in seventh despite setting only five laps. Old rival Greg Murphy joined him in setting few laps late in the session and he dropped to 11th, while Kenny Smith was limited to just two flying laps as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
Van der Drift got faster by 0.845s in FP3, where Smith again only ventured out for a few laps and didn’t improve on his FP2 lap.
Formula 4 graduates Conrad Clark and Josh Bethune also relied on their laps from the earlier session, with reigning NZ Formula Ford champion Billy Frazer doing the young drivers proud by going sixth fastest.
Toyota 86 champion Peter Vodanovich was seventh fastest, on what his first weekend in single-seaters, and FFord graduate Kaleb Ngatoa got within a second of van der Drift’s pace in ninth.
Free practice results
|1||Chris van der Drift||1m31.090s||1m30.245s|
|5||Shane van Gisbergen||1m31.478s||1m30.756s|