Young Czech racing star Petr Ptáček delivered the goods in Round Three of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park this weekend, claiming his first pole position and podium in the New Zealand-based single-seater series.
After two events where his true pace was masked by issues beyond his control, the 17-year-old was able to push hard from the first track session around the undulating 2.63km circuit.
“From the first test session on Thursday I knew we had good pace to build on,” explained the MindMaze-backed driver. “On Friday it was the same story; we were easily in the top five in every Free Practice session, and I set the fastest lap of the day. I knew some rivals were sandbagging, but I was confident that we could go for a good result in Qualifying One.
“To be honest, though, I was quite surprised to end up on pole. We had a good track position at the end of the session, and on my final push lap I saw that I was catching the two fast guys ahead of me on the circuit. When I got the pole in the closing moments of the session, I was quite happy!”
In Race One on Saturday afternoon, Petr found his car didn’t quite have the ultimate pace: “Before the race we made a small adjustment to the set-up. With hindsight, it wasn’t the perfect thing to do and we lost a little bit of pace, so I finished P3. Still, I was on the podium, so I was quite okay with that.”
The finishing order of the top six from Race One was reversed to determine the starting order for Race Two, meaning Petr, who is supported by Parmigiani Fleurier, lined up P4.
“Race Two was quite tough because both me and my team-mate went off track onto the grass at the exit of Turn One on lap one, so we lost quite a lot of positions. Despite that messy first corner, I was able to finish P5, so points-wise it wasn’t too bad,” said Petr.
In Qualifying Two, which set the grid for the weekend’s 25-lap feature race, Petr was P4 in his mtec Motorsport engineered by R-Ace GP car.
“Track conditions changed more than we expected, so we didn’t have the best strategy,” he explained. “Nevertheless, I was happy to be the fastest driver from our team. In the race my car developed engine issues and I dropped to last place, just as the Safety Car was deployed. I came into thepits so the team could carry out a ‘power cycle’ on the engine to try to fix the problem. I re-joined a lap down, but when the Safety Car came out twice more, I was able to recover the lost lap and eventually finished P10.
“Overall, I felt myself and the team did a good job this weekend, so we have to build on that. It has given me confidence because we have shown that we can fight for poles and podiums – and might as well go for victories too.”
The fourth and penultimate round of the Toyota Racing Series takes place at Pukekohe Park Raceway next weekend (7 – 9 February).