Young Guns Aiming To Chase Down Polish Sensation At Manfeild
Rising Polish motorsport star Roman Bilinski will be aiming to build on the impressive momentum of his two wins at the first round when the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship resumes for round two at Manfeild - Circuit Chris Amon this coming weekend.
Three very exciting races were a notable feature of the first round, with the learning curve of tyre management for the Pirelli tyres being used in the championship for the first time providing for some variation in race pace across the 17-car field.
In a top-class field of junior drivers, M2 Competition’s 19-year-old sensation Bilinski used his two-year knowledge of the tyre to see off the challenge of fast Giles Motorsport’s Australian Christian Mansell as well as a strong local Kiwi contingent to win the round and take the early initiative in the championship.
“We do have very good race pace and that gives me and the team confidence,” he said after his feature race win at Taupo. He didn’t want to go into too many details about why that was, but it’s likely to focus around his knowledge of the Pirelli tyre and how to get the most out of it as well as how to keep it performing well for long race distances.
Bilinski wasn’t the only driver to take a win at Taupo’s first round, however, Gerrard Xie won Sunday morning’s race – featuring a reversed top eight on the grid – and in doing so became only the second Chinese driver since Formula One star Guanyu Zhou won a race in the New Zealand championship back in 2016.
And while Bilinski stole the early initiative, there are plenty of drivers showing enough speed to halt his momentum. Mansell has obvious peed in his Giles Motorsport run car, as does teammate Kaleb Ngatoa and M2 Competition’s Michael Shin, Liam Sceats and Kiwi FF1600 champion Alex Crosbie, who showed fine form on his debut weekend in the championship for Giles Motorsport.
Expect improved performances from Canadian hot prospect Patrick Woods-Toth and Italian Alpine F1 team junior Nicola Lacorte too. Woods-Toth is Kiwi Motorsport’s F4 US Champion and showed blinding speed at Taupo in a weekend blighted by small niggles.
With ex F1 driver Martin Donnelly providing driver coaching in the Kiwi Motorsport camp, it should be just a matter of time before he hits the front. His drive through the field in Race 2 from 16th to fifth was a clear demonstration of that.
Lacorte improved with every session in the first weekend and was solidly in the top ten by the end of the weekend. He could be close to the top five this weekend.
Another top US prospect, Titus Sherlock, also had a bit of bad luck at the first round but has plenty of speed and could find front running form at Manfeild. Kiwi Kaden Probst showed real promise at the first round too and will be hunting for his first top ten result.
Mtec Motorsport’s Australian Elliott Cleary impressed with top ten results on his debut weekend in Formula Regional at Taupo too, the ex TransAm racer demonstrating both versatility and speed as he got to grips with something completely new. He will be in the top ten mix this weekend, as will his countryman Tommy Smith, who first raced in the category in 2019 and has knowledge of the challenging track.
Brazil’s Lucas Fecury is a much-improved driver in his second NZ championship after debuting in 2023 and will be a solid mid-field runner capable of surprising with a good result, while the USA’s Jake Bonilla, Landon Matriano Lim and Jett Bowling all had good debut weekends at Taupo and will be hunting top tens at Manfeild.
The action at the 3.03km circuit in the North Island town of Feilding begins with private testing on Thursday, with official practice Friday, qualifying and the first race on Saturday the two races on Sunday, with the afternoon’s feature race for the Dan Higgins Trophy the weekend highlight.
History for the championship – which has been running for 17 years – will also be made this weekend on Saturday. The first race of the weekend will also be the category’s 300th since it began.
2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship certified by FIA – Standings after R1
|Roman Bilinski (POL)
|Liam Sceats (NZL)
|Christian Mansell (AUS)
|Michael Shin (KOR)
|Alex Crosbie (NZL)
|Gerrard Xie (CHN)
|Kaleb Ngatoa (NZL)
|Tommy Smith (AUS)
|Elliott Cleary (Aus)
|Patrick Woods Toth (CAN)
|Titus Sherlock (USA)
|Nicola Lacorte (ITA)
|Jake Bonilla (USA)
|Kaden Probst (NZL)
|Jett Bowling (USA)
|Lucas Fecury (BRA)
|Landan Matriano Lim (USA)
2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship certified by FIA - Events
19-21 January 2024 - Taupo International Motorsport Park – Historic GP event
26-28 January 2024 - Manfeild - Circuit Chris Amon
2-4 February 2024 - Hampton Downs Motorsport Park
9-11 February 2024 – Euromarque Motorsport Park
16-18 February 2024 - Highlands Motorsport Park – 68th New Zealand Grand Prix