British racing driver Ben Clucas has won the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy at Pukekohe Park Raceway today and the trophy will now sit alongside the New Zealand Motor Cup he won at Pukekohe last April.
. Ben's win came in the 20 lap third race of Round One of the 2007 Toyota Racing Series but it was Auckland's Daniel Gaunt who won the weekend outright with two race wins and a fifth place.
The first 12 lap race of the day was a dramatic affair with four safety car periods disjointing proceedings despite some close racing. Gaunt was beaten at the start by Ben Harford (Lower Hutt) but recovered the lead after a stunning maneuver following the first restart. He then opened a gap he was to maintain to the finish. Third place went to Marc Doran (Queenstown) who drove a steady race to avoid trouble with Christina Orr (Whakatane) finishing fourth ahead of Nic Jordan (Cambridge).
Several drivers suffered incidents including Will Thomason (Wellington) and Hamad Al Fardan (Bahrain) whose cars both suffered damage after heavy contact with the safety wall. Other drivers encountered spins following contact with other cars including Daynom Templeman (Auckland), Andy Knight (Christchurch), Mark Russ (Auckland) and Jayant Singh (Wellington). Australian driver Lucas Dumbrell also left the track on the fastest corner but kept a cool head to negotiate his car back on course to continue without damage.
After the race, Marc Doran was philosophical about his top three placing:
"You have to look ahead and plan the race and we had pace all weekend but still struggled in qualifying. We found the set up we felt would do the job so it was good to get a third placing in the first round" he explained.
Race Three saw Gaunt joined on the front row of the starting grid by series debutant Shane Van Gisbergen (Manukau City) owing to his second fastest lap time in the previous race. Ben Harford started well in third place but dropped back to seventh when mechanical problems began to intervene and eventually stop his car completely. Gaunt held a commanding lead but spun after lapping Christina Orr's ailing car thus letting Clucas strike for the lead after he had overtaken Van Gisbergen. Clucas then controlled the race to the finish but it was Van Gisbergen who took the crowd's attention by finishing second in only his third race of the series:
"It was good to finish second after we incurred a time penalty in the second race. I feel really good getting my fist podium finish under my belt and we hope it's the first of many to come" he said enthusiastically after the race.
Following the day's racing, however, some drivers were delivered time penalties owing to driving infringements in Race Two. Although the major placings were not affected, the points standings were revised considerably. Dan Gaunt will head to Round Two of the Series on 204 points ahead of the impressive Van Gisbergen on 136, Harford (134), Doran (129), Singh (120) and another debutant, Earl Bamber (Wanganui) on 114.
The next round of the Toyota Racing Series will take place at Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park (Christchurch) on the 25th and 26th of November.