The 2020 New Zealand Grand Prix will feature an all-Brazilian front row after an epic qualifying session that saw Igor Fraga take the top spot from Caio Collet.
In a shortened qualifying session, M2 Competition driver Fraga hovered around the top ten mark before releasing a series of blistering laps at the end of the session. His 1 minute 2.706 seconds was enough to take him to the top. Championship rival Liam Lawson, who leads Fraga by just four points heading into today’s final day of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, also went under the 1 minute 3 second mark in the quickest conditions of the weekend, but had to settle for third.
Veteran racer Ken Smith didn’t get his qualifying off to a great start when he spun while warming up his tyres and could not get going again before the red flag came out. The stoppage cost the session a few minutes and unfortunately it was to get worse for Kenny – aiming to make his 49th Grand Prix start in New Zealand. In the early minutes of the restarted session, he spun again at Higgins and brought out the second red flag which cost even more time.
What it meant was that the drivers – who have generally needed most of the 15 minute sessions to warm their tyres to the optimal range – had only eight minutes or thereabouts of actual qualifying time.
All of a sudden it was game on for eSports champ Fraga and his rival as the field scrambled to get in as many hot laps as they could. Spike Kohlbecker was first into the groove and staked his claim to a front row starting slot first before Fraga went into the 1 minute 3.5 second bracket. That mark stood for a few minutes before it was bettered by Collet, Lawson, Kohlbecker, Ido Cohen and himself.
With a couple of minutes to go Lawson banged in the quickest time of the weekend, a 1 minute 2.9 second lap. A lap later and Collet bettered that mark by a few hundredths of a second. Kohlbecker then went a hundredth quicker before Lawson set a new benchmark 1 minute 2.724. With seconds to go Fraga raced round in a stunning 1 minute 2.706 second lap. Collet also saved his best to last for mtec Motorsport engineered by R-Ace GP and beat Lawson’s time, but fell just four thousandths of a second short of his countryman.
Franco Colapinto – the 2020 Castrol Toyota Series rookie champion – was just a couple of hundredths behind in fourth for Kiwi Motorsport while team mate Kohlbecker held on to fifth after another great run in qualifying at Manfeild by the young American. Petr Ptacek bagged the sixth best time while the fourth row of the grid for the Grand Prix will be occupied by Ido Cohen and Lucas Petersson. Red Bull Junior Yuki Tsunoda and Jackson Walls complete row five and the top ten.