Czech driver Petr Ptacek Jr made a confident start to his 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series campaign in New Zealand this weekend, scoring enough points to secure P6 in the main championship and P2 in the Rookie standings.
The Parmigiani Watches-supported driver has chosen the ultra-competitive single-seater series to get some extra experience during the winter months and he wasted no time getting up to speed during the opening round at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.
Working with his new Giles Motorsport team, Petr made a solid start during his first qualifying session on Saturday morning as he fired his car to P8 (out of 15) on the grid.
When the racing action got underway that afternoon, the 16-year-old wasn’t able to make the progress that his early pace warranted after the rear suspension on his car broke on one of the circuit kerbs.
Despite his car’s handling being compromised, Petr – the reigning Italian F4 Rookie Cup Champion – still managed to gain a place during the 15-lap race and finished P7.
“I was quite happy with P7 because my car was sliding around a lot at the rear and I had to work pretty hard to make sure I didn’t lose a lot of time,” he explained.
That placed Petr P7 on the grid for Sunday’s second race. Unfortunately, a fuel pump issue reared its head during the 13-lap encounter. Despite losing all power at one point during the race, Petr’s determined performance secured a P8 finish.
“My engine stopped on the way to the grid which was strange,” he said. “My pace was initially okay – I was missing just a tenth to the fastest guys – but then my engine stopped altogether on lap nine. I had to stop and restart all the systems. It was a worrying moment but I managed to get going again and complete.”
Despite his setbacks during the first two races, Petr went on to secure his best finish of the weekend during his third and final race. Although rain brought wet and slippery track conditions, he expertly guided his #9 car to P5 after 20 laps of exciting racing.
He said: “We had excellent pace when the track was wet but the set-up wasn’t quite so effective as the road dried. It was still nice to finish the weekend positively and add some more points to my total.”
With a solid first round complete, Petr’s focus now turns to the second race weekend of the season at Teretonga next weekend (19-20 January).
“Despite some bad luck, I’ve made a fairly good start to the series and given myself a solid platform that I can build from in the next rounds,” he said. “It’s a really strong TRS field this year and I’m the most inexperienced driver in the leading pack.
“But I’ve definitely settled in well at my new team and in a brand-new car. That’s a good feeling to have and I’m hoping I can make even more progress at Teretonga.”