Knight rides to victory in exciting Grand Prix
Andy Knight kept his cool under intense final lap pressure from Matt Halliday to score a lights to flag victory in the New Zealand Grand Prix last Sunday.
Toyota Racing Series points leader Knight started from pole position and led the opening laps from former A1GP star Halliday and defending Grand Prix champion Daniel Gaunt, who had won Saturday’s first heat race.
They were pursued by Earl Bamber, who scored a commanding win in the preliminary race earlier in the afternoon.
Behind Bamber was Nelson Hartley, who had driven to second in Saturday’s race – his best ever finish in the TRS.
As the race neared one-third distance, Halliday began to close on Knight, and Hartley narrowed the gap to Bamber, catching and passing him on lap 12.
Halliday edged closer to Knight and made a lunge for the lead at the hairpin, going in deep under brakes – too deep. He lost momentum for a heartbeat, and Knight opened a small gap.
The first Safety Car came out on lap 16 when Nic Jordan hit the bank at the exit from the sweeper.
At the restart, Knight held station, with Halliday pursuing, followed by Gaunt, Hartley and Bamber.
Hartley’s race ended when he dived deep in a bid to pass Gaunt. The cars collided and Hartley was out.
Gaunt got going but pitted soon afterwards with a flat left rear tyre, the Tatuus’ right front wheel off the ground.
Knight won the restart, quickly opening a 0.7 second gap to Halliday.
But Halliday began to nibble away at Knight’s lead, closing right in at the hairpin, then got the car right under the rear wing in the Esses a lap later.
But Knight stayed cool as Halliday attacked again during the final lap, and took the win.
Halliday was second, 0.136 of a second behind in the sort of close finish that has typified TRS racing.
Bamber had run third till the final lap, but ran wide on a corner and was passed by Ben Harford and Dominic Storey.
Daynom Templeman finished sixth.
Speedway Midget Car ace, Michael Pickens, getting in some tarmac racing experience on his first visit to Manfeild, came home 14th after a couple of offs, including a spin at the sweeper.
Knight said it was great to finally get the GP win after five attempts, and having won it two years ago and then had the win taken away from him on a technicality (the red rear warning light had not been operating on his car).
“I think Matt (Halliday) probably was quicker, and if he’d got away better off the line it might have been a different story.”
Lady Wigram Trophy winner Earl Bamber had thrown down the challenge with an emphatic win in the Toyota Racing Series preliminary earlier on Sunday afternoon.
He grabbed the lead from pole and drove steadily away from the opposition, winning by more than 5.5 seconds – an unheard of margin in a class where the winner has frequently been decided by tenths of seconds.
Seasoned observers were shaking their heads: if he carried the same pace into the Grand Prix, what sort of margin would he win by?
But in the GP, Bamber said his car hadn’t had the pace to challenge Halliday or Knight.
Second behind Bamber in the preliminary was Gaunt.
Halliday finished third, closing in on Gaunt in the race’s closing stages.
Next up was Formula Ford graduate Michael Burdett, ahead of TRS series leader Knight. Ben Harford was sixth.
Top level open-wheeler racing is always somewhat technical, and though Sunday’s preliminary was processional, the cat and mouse battle between Knight and Halliday in the GP produced real excitement.