Petr Ptacek added more points to his Castrol Toyota Racing Series tally at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in New Zealand this weekend, despite having to contend with repeated mechanical problems and bad fortune.
The penultimate event of the 16-year-old rookie’s winter racing programme didn’t get off to the best start when a re-occurring electrical issue struck his Giles Motorsport car during Free Practice. That meant the Czech driver missed some vital laps on the unfamiliar 3.5km circuit in Taupo.
And Petr’s fortunes didn’t improve during qualifying. He felt a restrictive tyre strategy compromised his pace across the all-important timed sessions and another unexpected suspension failure in Q1 meant he lined up on the back of the grid for the first race. Q2 returned a P9 grid slot for the second race.
“I wasn’t able to set a proper time in Q1 because the front-left suspension on my car totally flew away on the straight,” Petr explained. “The bolt had cracked and broken. It was a disappointing start.”
Eager to bounce back, the reigning Italian F4 Rookie Cup champion delivered a determined performance in Race 1 as he fired his Parmigiani Watches-backed car up to P10. However, he suffered contact in the closing stages of the race and it was his car’s rear suspension that broke this time. He crossed the line in P14.
Race 2 proved to be the highlight of Petr’s weekend as he used his impressive race pace to quickly move up to P7 and confidently challenge the leading pack. “My pace was good and I pushed hard to try and influence the podium places. But the rear of my car wasn’t handling perfectly towards the end and I couldn’t improve on P7,” Petr said.
With a P7 starting slot to his credit, Race 3 delivered early excitement for Petr as he climbed to P6 during the opening exchanges. However, his car’s pre-event misfire returned with a vengeance and he lost valuable time.
He explained: “I made a really good start and was feeling confident. But the misfire returned and got worse. I had to start the engine three times while I was on the track. I was a horrible feeling to drop to P11.”
The final race of the weekend delivered yet more frustration for Petr. As he fought to tame an inconsistently handling car from P10, his race was brought to an abrupt end by another competitor’s optimistic passing attempt on lap 13. The resulting contact spun Petr out and his race was over.
Petr’s point-scoring return at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park wasn’t anywhere near what he’d hoped for this weekend, thanks to the various issues that conspired against him.
With the fifth and final Toyota Racing series event remaining at Manfeild Circuit in Feilding next weekend (9-10 February), he’s determined to end his rookie campaign on a high.
“The issues we had this weekend were incredible and it wasn’t fun having to battle against re-occurring problems,” he said. “The positives were that I continued my learning and scored points.
“Experiences like this will never dampen my love for racing and will only make me stronger. I’m going to push like hell in the final races next weekend – and hope the team manage to keep the mechanical problems at bay.”