Leitch takes victory from 2nd row
The strong gusts continued to batter Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, providing the drivers with a tail wind down the back straight.
Armstrong made a good start, but Daruvala looked to make a move around the outside of the Kiwi through turn one. The attempted pass ended up hindering the M2 Competition driver, allowing Leitch to slide down the inside of Daruvala and completing the pass around the outside of turn two.
The drama didn’t take long to unfold, as Taylor Cockerton became an early casualty. He dropped out of contention after colliding with Ferdinand Habsburg and teammate Kory Enders. The trio lay stranded exiting the final corner.
The safety car was subsequently brought out before the race was red flagged just one lap into the competition. A lengthy delay took place as the three cars were carted off the circuit.
Armstrong led Leitch, Daruvala, Randle, and Pirquet on the restart. The field headed cleanly through the opening set of corners. Leitch wasn’t far behind Armstrong, but had the added benefit of clean air.
Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer struggled at the back of the pack in 17th. The Frenchman fell off the circuit all on his own at turn two. He skated across the grass and returned to the back of the field a few seconds adrift.
Meanwhile, at the head of the field, Armstrong and Leitch kept Daruvala and Randle at bay. Randle looked the most likely to challenge for the final place on the podium, with less than a car length splitting them at the end of the long straight.
All of a sudden the momentum shifted to the leading pair, as Leitch hassled Arsmtrong for the lead. The pressure began to mount; and soon Armstrong cracked. Exiting the fast right handed turn-10, Armstrong faulted and ran wide.
Leitch stormed down the inside and went side-by-side with his fellow countryman. He made the move stick, and into the sweeping left hander and took the lead. Leitch stretched his legs immediately and opened up a lead well over five-car lengths.
"Full credit to my team, they gave me a great car today," said Leitch following his win.
"I managed to pressure Marcus into a mistake, and I managed to drive away. It's such a great feeling to come back from that last year here where we nearly had the win and it all faded away.
"It's been a fantastic day today, and a top effort from the team, Victory Motor Racing. We'll bring it on again tomorrow morning.
Leitch said he was stoked to bring home solid results in qualifying and the race, following a torrid time with three results outside the top-10.
"It was hard, but as an athlete you've just got to do your best. We had a bad week last weekend and now we're having it good. It's all karma and we had good karma this weekend and we'll push on."
Toyota Racing Series, race one results (provisional):
1. Brendon Leitch15-laps
2. Marcus Armstrong+ 1.536
3. Jehan Daruvala+ 3.763
4. Thomas Randle+ 3.860
5. Pedro Piquet+ 6.334
6. Kami Laliberte+ 9.783
7. Enaam Ahmed+ 10.915
8. Richard Verschoor+ 11.546
9. Luis Leeds + 18.441
10. Kevyan Andres+ 20.975
Story thanks to Velocity NZ