Hometown hero Brendon Leitch was the fastest driver in official practice at Teretonga Park today for the second round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series which takes place this weekend.
The top ten drivers are covered by just six tenths of a second as they go into Saturday morning's two qualifying sessions, with Leitch edging his team-mate Australian Thomas Randle by just nine hundreths of a second.
"I know this place like the back of my hand," said Leitch. "But its very close, getting a good clean lap in qualifying will be really important.'
Both drivers are using virtually identical set ups on their Toyota powered single seater cars. "We've really only played with the tyre pressures," said Randle."Nine hundreths of a second is nothing. I feel pretty good about tomorrow."
"This track sorts the men from the boys," said Randle. "Especially the loop at the end of the main straight. If you get even part of a tyre onto the grass you're gone."
Cars go into the corner at about 180 km/h.
Series leader Richard Verschoor from the Netherlands agrees its the most challenging corner. "I think the track is a little bit too short," said Verschoor. "I would like some more corners."
While he leads the series by three points from Randle, winning the championship is not Verschoor's main aim. "I'm here to win races, the series is not so important."
All the pacesetters from last weekend's racing at Ruapuna Park were in the top half of the field at the end of practice, which included one session in the wet, which may become valuable experience as showers are predicted for Saturday afternoon and Sunday when the racing will take place.
1, B Leitch (Invercargill) 53.401 seconds;
2, T Randle (Australia) 53.493;
3, P Piquet (Brazil) 53.557;
4, E Ahmed (England) 53.568;
5, J Daruvala (India) 53.646;
6, F Habsburg (Austria) 53.725;
7, K Laliberte (Canada) 53.811
8,M Armstrong (Christchurch) 53.851;
9, H Hayek (Australia) 53.939;
10, T Cockerton (Pukekohe) 54.