Rising Czech star Petr Ptáček launched his 2020 racing campaign this weekend with a hat-trick of points finishes in the opening round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
The 17-year-old has returned to the New Zealand-based championship for a second successive year to keep his skills sharp after the winter break. Round one took place at Highlands Motorsport Park, a compact 4.1km circuit where overtaking is difficult, although that didn’t prevent Petr from catching the eye with some inspired passing moves as he charged to a P6 finish in the main race.
Two earlier outings yielded a pair of P8 results for Petr, who is supported by Parmigiani Fleurier, although his pace in both was compromised by a technical issue.
“At the start of the weekend we had decent speed, but when we got to Quali One, I made some small mistakes which compromised us,” explained Petr. “To be completely fair, though, I felt something was not quite okay with the engine, because I was losing a lot of time at corner exit.
“As a driver, you always know if you’re doing a good job or a bad job, and I felt like I was putting in decent laps, but my times weren’t improving. In Quali Two, the engine was still not pulling enough, then during the last six laps of Race Two, it felt even worse.
“I asked the team to do something, so they changed the whole turbocharger. It worked – thankfully for Race Three I now had the power I needed. I was carrying so much more speed out of the really important corners, so I was able to push hard.”
Having moved up to P8 at the start, Petr deprived Lirim Zendeli of P7 through the sequence of right-hand corners before the start/finish straight. Then on the last lap of the race he made an audacious move on Ido Cohen at one of the most challenging sections of the circuit.
“To pull off the pass on the last lap I had to take quite a lot of the sausage kerb at the corner exit, which made the car fly quite high! For a while I had no wheels on the ground and it looked like I was heading straight for the wall, but in the end it was okay and good fun,” said Petr, who finished P6.
The MindMaze-backed driver added: “This wasn’t quite the start to the season I wanted, but for sure there are positives. I feel I did a decent job, considering the engine issue was probably there from the beginning and getting progressively worse. On my one clear lap in Race Three, with full power restored, I was able to set the fifth-quickest time overall, so I’m happy about that. I’m also pleased that I finished all three races consistently in the points.
“Big thanks to R-ace GP and mtec Motorsport; they did a really good job and the engine problem we experienced was out of their hands. There are still a lot of points on offer and I’ll push like hell to give the team the results they deserve.”
Round two of the Toyota Racing Series takes place at Teretonga Park near Invercargill next weekend (24-26 January).