Shane van Gisbergen made it two wins from two at Hampton Downs in the safety car-disrupted second race of the Toyota Racing Series season.
The race ended behind the safety car after a battle between Brendon Leitch and Andre Heimgartner for the final podium spot resulted in contact.
Van Gisbergen had a relatively quiet race from pole, holding off Chris van der Drift early on and building a gap to the rest of the field before the safety car was brought out just before the midpoint as Tom Alexander ran into the gravel.
A strong start for Brendon Leitch put him third by the safety car restart and he and van der Drift were initially able to stick with van Gisbergen. The three briefly ran side-by-side before van Gisbergen was able to get his nose back ahead and Leitch dropped back.
Van der Drift stuck with van Gisbergen though, waiting for an opportunity to attack but none would arise before Leitch brought out the safety car with two laps remaining.
Heimgartner had enjoyed a strong start to the race to climb up form ninth on the grid to be running sixth on the restart. Ahead of him was Matthew Payne and Daniel Gaunt, and karting graduate Payne’s defence of fourth place became considerably easier when Gaunt broke part of his front suspension by tapping the rear of Payne’s car.
Payne then closed in on Leitch, with Heimgartner in pursuit before the tin-top star got past and started pressuring Leitch himself.
The pair ran side-by-side for several corners before making contact, with Leitch took the blame for. Heimgartner, who had been on the outside, was left with severe damage and unable to bring the car back to the pits, while Leitch limped back.
Payne swept past both to take third, ahead of Kaleb Ngatoa and Damon Leitch.
A number of small mistakes for Billy Frazer dropped him down the order after a strong start and he finished ninth.
Van Gisbergen’s Australian Supercars rival Greg Murphy was the first retiree, pulling out of the race after being handed the mechanical flag for a broken front wing, and 79-year-old Kenny Smith – who will make his 50th New Zealand Grand Prix start later in the day – also called his race early to sustain himself for the third race of the weekend.
Race results (20 laps)
|1||Shane van Gisbergen||34m29.939s|
|2||Chris van der Drift||+0.409s|
|Ret||Brendon Leitch||+2 laps|
|Fastest lap: van Gisbergen, 1m31.157s