An electrical fault hampered 16-year-old Wanganui driver Earl Bamber in his Toyota Racing Series debut at Pukekohe Park Raceway south of Auckland this weekend.
Bamber made an impressive start to the weekend in the TradeZone Tatuus when he was amongst the fastest on the 2.84 kilometre circuit during Friday's test sessions. That was all the more impressive as Friday was just the second time the recently crowned Formula BMW Asia Champion had driven the car.
The team left the circuit on Friday evening looking forward to Saturday's qualifying sessions. Unfortunately some changes to the car overnight cost the team in the short twenty minute session to establish grid positions. The changes took the car set - up in the wrong direction and the nature of the circuit and the closeness of the grid left Bamber in 9th grid position. The qualifying session demonstrated the competitiveness of the series with the first 14 cars on the grid within one second of the pole position winning time.
Hoping to improve his lap time in Saturday afternoon's opening 12 - lap race the Wanganui teenager became involved in a dice with Christina Orr. Unfortunately the resulting battle prevented him from setting a quicker lap time that could have improved his grid position for Sunday morning's race.
However both of Sunday's races were spoiled when an electrical problem reared it's head. In the morning race Earl was forced to pit around the halfway point to try and rectify the problem. He rejoined after his pit stop and still finished a creditable 9th, despite the time spent in the pits.
The final race of the weekend was the feature event for the Toyota Racing Series cars, the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race over 20 laps.
Once again the car was affected by the electrical problem but Bamber pressed on nevertheless. Starting from 15th position on the grid he made steady progress through the field, steadily gaining places throughout the race until the end when he crossed the line in 9th.
Earl was upbeat after a weekend that promised so much after the Friday sessions. "It was good to get a solid run into the top eight", he said. "I was happy with my series start but it could have been even better", he said. He also paid credit to Team Meritus who run the car. "Team Meritus has done a fantastic job, I think they were the best organised team here this weekend".
He also paid tribute to the sponsors who are supporting his effort in this series. "I am pleased to have the support of the TradeZone Industrial Group and their supplier partners CRC, Koken, Hitachi Power Tools, Bahco, Fuller Hand Tools plus Meritus, Wanganui Toyota and South Taranaki Toyota.