The chaos that dogged the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Teretonga Park appears to have followed it north to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, after a bizarre opening race this afternoon.
After a crash on the start-finish straight ended the race prematurely, results are still not yet known as officials pour over lap-counts and procedure over what was a unique red-flag impacted finish.
Both cars on the front row, Kazuto Kotaka and Lucas Auer, got exceptional starts. But, their time at the front didn't last long after contact on the run to turn two. Appearing to stumble on each other with wheel-to-wheel contact, Auer was spat out sideways into the outside wall — continuing a string of crashes for the DTM ace.
It was a chaotic lap elsewhere too, as Brendon Leitch went off over the turn-three hill and Esteban Muth went wide into the turn-four hairpin. Leitch and Auer were able to recover and press on, but Muth was stuck in the sand, and Kotaka was forced to tour pit-lane for repairs. Naturally, a safety car was summoned.
This heavily shuffled the order. From the second row of the grid Cameron Das had avoided the chaos to lead over Lawson and Artem Petrov, with Armstrong and Gore not far behind as the race restarted on lap five.
Armstrong immediately made places, getting past Petrov for third. Leitch was on a mission too, somehow managing to pass both Calan Williams and Thomas Smith through the last corner to get back to seventh — one spot ahead of where he had been at the start. But another safety car would again interrupt proceedings; this time for the stricken car of Auer on the inside of turn four.
A lengthy safety car ensued, with a failed restart seemingly prompted by Das being too close to the safety car extending the break. Eventually racing restarted with only seven laps to go, but once again, another incident would pause proceedings — this time for a crash involving MTEC teammates Williams and Kotaka. The pairing had made contact exiting the carousel, with Williams spinning into the armco and damaging all four corners of his FT-50.
The yellow was soon bumped up to a red-flag, which gave the series a chance at a finish under green. Although evidently, not for long.
The race restart with only a handful of laps to go was a botched one; race leader Das and Lawson coming together nose-to-tail on the front straight. Luckily the spectacular incident didn't suck in any other cars, but in the melee some drivers checked up while others pressed on. One of those to press on was Leitch, who somehow came from sixth to first by the exit of turn one.
The race was called from there, with the field coming into pit-lane at the end of the lap as red flags flew. There were initial views that Leitch had won (the Invercargill driver celebrating in his cockpit on the in-lap), but eventually it was confirmed that the race result would be subject of investigation from officials.
Following the crash, it's understood that Russian driver Petrov was the first to cross the timing line for the last time — doing so ahead of Petr Ptacek and Leitch. Armstrong, balked the worst by the restart crash, was fourth to cross the line. But, this order could prove meaningless if officials elect to wind the race back another lap — in which case the race could revert to its previous order; Das leading Lawson, and Armstrong.
More to come.