Munro Fifth In Grand Prix Seventh In Championship
Christchurch driver James Munro has ended his rookie season in the hugely competitive Toyota Racing Series with a very impressive fifth placing in the country's most prestigious motor race, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Park in Feilding. Munro was again in superb form at Manfeild, qualifying strongly in the wet on Saturday and then picking up two fifth placings in the three races. After an extremely competitive rookie season he also finished seventh in the series, boasting a race win and a pole position among his achievements in the classy international field.
Munro qualified well on a wet track on Saturday setting the seventh fastest time in the first session and fifth in the next, less than a second off pole position each time. The first race of the weekend was the Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy race and Munro and Estonian Martin Rump, the other driver vying for the Rookie Of The Year title, both went off the track early on. The duo fought back until Rump took James off the track, damaging the DJ Hewitt Builders car, leaving him to limp home in seventeenth place. Rump was duly penalised for the incident. However that consigned Munro to the rear of the grid for Sunday morning's race and again he showed his undoubted ability as he carved his way to an impressive fifth place.
Later that afternoon seventeen-year-old Munro lined up for his first New Zealand Grand Prix. He made a great start and ran as high as third early on. A safety car midway through the race closed the field up and at the restart James lost several places. However he gained one spot back and crossed the line fifth behind three-time Grand Prix winner Nick Cassidy and internationals Jann Mardenborough, Andrew Tang and Steijn Schothorst who all contested the series last season.
The one disappointment for Munro was the incident in the opening race. As James explained later finishing down the order in the first race of the round wrecks your weekend as it affects your grid position for the second race. However he was happy overall with the weekend. "I had good pace in the DJ Hewitt Builders car in qualifying. I probably just didn't string together one good lap." After the disappointment of the first race he was very pleased with fifth in the second contest. "I made some good passes and stayed out of trouble." Talking of the Grand Prix James said, "the two behind me got a big jump at the restart, I don't know how. One more car got through and then I got one back. I had good pace but it is hard to use when you are following cars."
Looking back at his rookie year Munro was very pleased. The Toyota Racing Series is a massive step up in competition and Munro says, "I achieved a lot of things I wasn't expecting. My first race win, a pole position and finishing this high in the championship. I am keen to come back next year even stronger."
There are more immediate priorities however. The Christs College student will return to his studies on Tuesday after travelling back to Christchurch.