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Russians star in Kiwi motor racing

Russians star in Kiwi motor racing

The rapid rise of Russian motor racing is reflected in the victory by Egor Orudzhev in today’s opening race of the Toyota Racing Series at Invercargill’s Teretonga circuit.

Indeed all three Russians entered finished in the top 10 of the big field, with Dennis Korneev in fifth and Matevos Isaakyan in ninth.

Orudzhev, 18, started sixth on the grid but made very swift progress.

“I passed two drivers at the start and a third one at the first corner,” he said. “I passed around the outside – I felt that if I stayed behind the guy it’s too slow.”

On lap two Invercargill driver Damon Leitch crashed out of second place when his rear wing flew off at turn two.

“At first I thought I’d spun all by myself but then I looked in the mirror and saw the wing was gone,” Leitch said.

“I went into turn two normally and suddenly it was all go. I thought I was going to hit the wall but luckily it pulled up in time.”

That left top qualifier Steijn Schothorst from the Netherlands with a big lead over Orudzhev but a safety-car period bunched the field up and on the restart Schothorst’s engine went off song and he fell right back to 20th.

Orudzhev took over the lead and maintained a safe gap over another Eastern European driver, Martin Rump from Estonia.

Motorsport was becoming popular in Russia, Orudzhev said, with a lot of young drivers racing karts. Daniil Kvyat – who contested the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) two years ago – enters Formula One with the Toro Rosso team this year, which is generating publicity for the sport.

Russia is also preparing to host a Formula One Grand Prix but Orudzhev, who lives in St Petersburg, said the standard within Russia was still quite low and fast drivers had to race in Europe to make progress. He is preparing for his second season in European Formula Renault 2.0 competition.

Third place went to Australian Jordan Oon and Te Puke driver Michael Scott did well to finish fourth.

Two more TRS races are scheduled for tomorrow, with the final race counting as the Spirit of a Nation Cup, and then the championship continues over the next four weekends. Orudzhev has qualified on pole for the Spirit race.

Cambridge driver Nick Ross took over the lead of the New Zealand V8 Touring Car Championship with victory in his Holden Commodore when the previous leader, Australian Jason Bargwanna, stopped with a mechanical problem in his Toyota Camry.

Bargwanna’s 19-year-old team-mate, AJ Lauder from Turua, took second and Aucklander Shaun Varney came third in his Ford Falcon.

The TL class for the original-specification V8s was a long tussle between Invercargill driver Grant Molloy and Lauder’s younger brother Brad, both in Falcons. Brad Lauder exerted huge pressure and nearly crashed when he went partly on the grass at turn one, but Molloy held on till the end. A later enquiry into the start of the race resulted in Lauder winning the race and Molloy dropping to third.

Another local victory came in the Formula Ford race, as rookie Jamie Conroy held a safe lead throughout to beat the more experienced Michael Collins. Conroy said his French Mygale was particularly stable through the long, fast turn one, known as the Loop and regarded as a crucial part of the track for setting a good lap time.

Each class has two more races tomorrow.


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