Petr Ptacek’s charge at the second round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand was cut short today as an extreme weather front struck the Teretonga Park circuit in Invercargill.
With a frustrating P12 finish in Race 1 on Saturday behind him, the 16-year-old was looking forward to challenging for points in the second and third races on Sunday.
However, with gale force winds set to batter the 2.57km coastal track, organisers took the decision to postpone today’s action on safety grounds.
Although he was disappointed not to race, Petr acknowledged the decision was the correct one.
He said: “It’s better to cancel, especially on a track like this. If your aero is compromised by strong winds on a track where there’s very limited run off, there’s nowhere to go. It could lead to a big accident.”
Having secured a fistful of points during the first round of the hotly-contested single-seater championship at Highlands Motorsport Park last weekend, Petr was keen to build on that performance at Teretonga.
He spent practice learning the short and unique track with his Giles Motorsport team and went into Saturday’s wet qualifying session in optimistic mood.
Unfortunately, with the track drying slower than expected, the decision to fit Petr’s car with used wet tyres didn’t bring the performance benefit his team hoped for in the latter stages of the session and he had to settle for a P13 grid slot in Race 1.
As the 20-lap battle got underway on Saturday afternoon, Petr immediately looked to move up the order. Showing strong pace, he swarmed around the cars directly ahead of him looking for a passing opportunity.
Sadly, Petr received contact from another driver as he challenged for position and his car’s rear suspension was damaged. That meant he had to make an unscheduled visit to the pits.
Thanks to a quick repair by the Giles Motorsport engineers, he rejoined the race on the same lap as the rest of the field – albeit at the back of the pack.
Despite being half a lap down, Petr showed magnificent speed – lapping faster than the race leader on some occasions – and was soon challenging the cars ahead.
A succession of slick passing manoeuvres enabled him to claw back three places and secure a P12 finish at the chequered flag.
“The race was pretty bad in the beginning but I was pleased that I found some excellent pace and could finish strongly,” the Parmigiani Watches-supported driver said. “I was three or four tenths quicker than the leading guys on some laps.
“The pace is definitely there in this championship. We just need to make sure we perform the best we can in qualifying and then hope we avoid any issues during the races. I know the big results will come.”
Petr will return to action next weekend when the third round of the Toyota Racing Series is held at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in Waikato.
Today’s postponed races will be rescheduled. Race 2 will now be run at Hampton Downs, while Race 3 qualifying and the race will be contested at Taupo Motorsport Park a week later.
Petr’s 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series calendar:
NZ Motor Cup – Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Waikato
Denny Hulme Trophy – Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo
New Zealand Grand Prix – Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, Feilding