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Van Der Drift Still Out Front But Payne Threatens In Third Practice

Tasman Motorsports Group driver Chris van der Drift maintained his fast pace on the opening day of the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix, but was pushed hard in the 30 minute session by rookie Matthew Payne.

Matthew Payne excelled with second fastest time in third practice. Picture Bruce Jenkins

Payne is an accomplished karter but the Hampton Downs meeting this weekend is his first major single seater racing event and his first race in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.

Van der Drift was fast throughout the session and lowered the benchmark to a 1 minute 30.2 second lap. Set relatively early on a new tyre run, it gave the Hamilton racer an advantage of a few tenths until Payne put in his fastest lap, leaving him just under two tenths behind. Engineered for the weekend by former Grand Prix winner and TRS champion Liam Lawson, the 18 year old is shaping up to be a real dark horse for Grand Prix honours.

Brendon Leitch was another to maintain his form from the second session earlier in the day and posted the third quickest time while Andre Heimgartner was again in the mix and fast throughout the session, ending up fourth.

Bathurst champion Shane van Gisbergen continued to go faster and rounded out the top five after his new tyre run. Rookie Billy Frazer clocked the sixth fastest time in the session, with Peter Vodanovich getting to grips with his car in his single seater debut to finish seventh best.

Greg Murphy once again caught the eye with another fast lap, recording a time good enough for eighth in the session after a total of 16 laps. Kalen Ngatoa and Tom Alexander rounded out the top ten.

There is one more practice session on Saturday before qualifying for the first race, which takes place on Saturday afternoon.

66th New Zealand Grand Prix - Practice 3

1. Chris van der Drift
2. Matthew Payne
3. Brendon Leitch
4. André Heimgartner
5. Shane van Gisbergen
6. Billy Frazer
7. Peter Vodanovich
8. Greg Murphy
9. Kaleb Ngatoa
10. Tom Alexander
11. Daniel Gaunt
12. Damon Leitch
13. Chris Vlok
14. Conrad Clark
15. Joshua Bethune
16. Ken Smith

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