Richard Verschoor kept his Toyota Racing Series title hopes alive by winning the first race at Hampton Downs, assisted by championship leader Marcus Armstrong being held back by an overheating engine.
Verschoor kept his pole advantage at the start, as his M2 Competition team-mates Armstrong and Juan Manuel Correa battled over second place.
Armstrong took the position from front row starter Correa, but could not stay on the tail of team-mate Verschoor.
The Ferrari Driver Academy member had a resurgence in the middle of the 20 lap race though, and brought the lead gap down to a tenth at one point after a mistake by Verschoor.
Verschoor placed his car perfectly though, and when Armstrong’s engine started to overheat in the latter part of the race, he romped to an easy 3.983 second victory.
“I didn’t push in the middle part of the race because I knew the surface was quite loose in places,” said the Dutchman after taking victory.
“Then I made a small mistake that let Marcus get close to me. So I had to take back the advantage in the last few laps.”
Verschoor was unaware of the New Zealander’s issues, but with second place the championship leader still extends his points advantage over Shwartzman, the fourth of M2’s five drivers.
Shwartzman qualified fourth, and spent much of the race pressuring Correa for the final podium spot. He fell short in that task, and is now 41 points behind Armstrong.
Giles Motorsport pair Clement Novalak, winner last time out at Teretonga, and Reid Harker finished fifth and sixth, with Harker recording his best ever result in the championship.
James Pull (M2 Competition) led a manic scrap for seventh, with Taylor Cockerton (MTEC), Brendon Leitch (VMR) and Charles Milesi (MTEC) completing the top 10 behind him.
The top six on the grid will be reversed for the second race, meaning Toyota 86 championship graduate Harker will start on pole, ahead of team-mate Novalak and the five M2 drivers.
Race results (20 laps)
1 Richard Verschoor M2 Competition 20m47.463
2 Marcus Armstrong M2 Competition +3.983s
3 Juan Manuel Correa M2 Competition +5.797s
4 Robert Shwartzman M2 Competition +6.564s
5 Clement Novalak Giles Motorsport +9.911s
6 Reid Harker Giles Motorsport +15.106s
7 James Pull M2 Competition +21.907s
8 Taylor Cockerton MTEC Motorsport +22.541s
9 Brendon Leitch Victory Motor Racing +24.578s
10 Charles Milesi MTEC Motorsport +25.697s
11 Cameron Das Victory Motor Racing +28.763s
12 Calvin Ming Victory Motor Racing +29.068s
13 Ryan Yardley MTEC Motorsport +30.281s
Fastest Lap: Verschoor, 1m01.486s
1 Armstrong 464? ?2 Shwartzman 423? ?3 Verschoor 397? ?4 Novalak 359? ?5 Pull 342? ?6 Correa 339? ?7 Cockerton 259? ?8 Ming 257? ?9 Harker 249? ?10 Leitch 248