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Kiwi racer Leitch challenging for Toyota championship

29 January 2014

Kiwi racer Leitch challenging for Toyota championship

Damon Leitch’s sensible approach has put the Kiwi driver right in contention for the Toyota Racing Series as the big field heads to the NZ Motor Cup meeting at Hampton Downs for the penultimate round this weekend.

After a fine third round at the new Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago, the Invercargill racer is only 20 points behind leader Martin Rump and looking well capable of achieving his stated ambition of winning the championship.

Finishes of fourth, second and third in wet, tricky conditions at Highlands proved again that Leitch, 20, has both speed and consistency – the two big requirements for winning championships. Several of the other leading drivers lost points as over-ambition sent them skidding off the track.

“It’s always good to drive fast but sometimes you have to be a bit conservative to make sure you finish,” Leitch said. “Some people drive a bit too fast and they make mistakes.

“I want to finish all the races and I’ve been able to do that so far.

“The car was really good all weekend. It was good to get a couple of podiums and pick up good points. It’s all looking good now.”

While many of the record 19 overseas drivers in the series race intensively during the Northern Hemisphere season, Leitch races cars only five weekends a year.

“Last year I did a lot of go-karting but the TRS is the only time I race a car,” he said. “I try to get into it as quickly as I can.

“Teretonga [round one] had an extra day’s testing and that was good, it helped me get myself smooth with the car. I think the pace has been pretty good all season.”

This is Leitch’s fourth season in the TRS, his best championship finish being third in 2012. A few of the other drivers are in their second season but most are competing here for the first time.

“That experience does help a lot, knowing the car, but there are people overseas who probably did more racing miles last year than I have in four seasons of TRS,” he said.

It’s very close at the top of the championship standing, with two rounds to go.

Estonian Rump, with 440 points, is just two ahead of British ace Jann Mardenborough. Singaporean Andrew Tang has 422, Leitch 420, and fast but erratic Russian Egor Orudzhev 406. Sixth, with 366, is 17-year-old Christchurch rookie James Munro who has burst into prominence this season.

The NZ Motor Cup meeting also includes the fourth round of the Formula Ford championship and the third round of the new Toyota Finance 86 championship.

Jamie Conroy from Invercargill is running away with the Formula Ford championship, having won all nine races so far. Christchurch driver Michael Collins is hoping that his Van Diemen Stealth will suit the Hampton Downs track better than Conroy’s Mygale, and will also have the advantage of knowing the circuit whereas Conroy has never been there before.

Young Christchurch driver Tom Alexander, a contender in last year’s Formula Ford season, leads the championship for Toyota TR 86 coupes with 382 points from former NZV8 champion Angus Fogg on 358 and former TRS racer Jamie McNee third just another four points further back.

Saturday sees qualifying and one race for each category, and Sunday brings two races each.


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