Petr Ptacek scored the first podium of his 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series campaign this weekend as the series visited Hampton downs Motorsport Park in New Zealand.
Having qualified P12 for Friday’s opening race at the 3.8km track, the Czech driver delivered a mature and calculated drive to scythe his way through the field and claim an impressive P2 finish at the chequered flag.
The 18-lap race proved to be an incident-packed encounter as a number of collisions forced various Safety Car periods and three red flags. But with chaos unfolding around him, Petr maintained a cool head and focused on his own race.
By perfectly blending his proven speed with exemplary race craft, the 16-year-old made up six places on the very first lap and continued his confident push up the leaderboard as the laps counted down.
When the chequered flag dropped, Petr’s Giles Motorsport car was placed P2 – just 0.051 seconds shy of victory.
It was a positive start to the third round of the Toyota Racing Series and a result that illustrated Petr has the skills to mix it with the best junior single-seater drivers in the world.
“It was fantastic to claim P2 in the opening race, particularly as the race was so messy,” the Parmigiani Watches-supported driver said. “I recognised quite early that the race required a calm and measured approach and that’s I delivered.
“It would have been easy to force the result by trying to be a hero. Instead, I concentrated on being fast and keeping out of trouble. In the end it was exactly the right strategy and I was happy for that.”
Unfortunately, Petr wasn’t able to build on his positive start during the remaining races at Hampton Downs.
An honest error of judgement forced the reigning Italian F4 Rookie Cup champion to retire at the beginning of the second race, while the weekend’s remaining pair of races returned solid – but largely frustrating – P11 and P12 finishes.
“The contact during the second race was my mistake,” Petr admitted. “I went defensive to block any passing opportunity from behind and unfortunately the guy in front of me was closing faster than I expected. I couldn’t avoid contact with the rear of his car.
“In the other sessions I had to deal with repeated technical issues that didn’t help my progress. In qualifying, I had to drive with broken rear suspension. It’s the second event that I’ve had suspension problems. It’s something that needs to stop.
“It’s frustrating because I don’t think my final results are showing my true potential in this championship.”
With two events remaining in the Toyota Racing Series, Petr remains determined to push as hard as he can and maximise his learning opportunity as he races in New Zealand for the first time.
The rookie said: “I will always give my absolute best and that will be the case in the remaining seven races of this winter campaign. I’ve already learned lots of new things in TRS and I feel like I’m growing as a racer and a person. That will definitely help me in 2019.”
Petr will return to TRS action next weekend when the championship visits Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo.