Invercargill driver Damon Leitch sealed eighth place in the Toyota Racing Series as the five-round competition ended with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Park in Feilding at the weekend.
"This year's series was fiercely competitive," said Leitch as his Nelson-based team, Victory Motor Racing, packed up after the Grand Prix. "We had good speed in the Post Haste Couriers Toyota but we didn't get a lot of luck."
Leitch has finished inside the top 10 in each of his three years in the series, including a third last year. While his international rivals will head off to contest various motor-racing series throughout the world, the Southlander will soon be back at work in Invercargill.
Leitch again showed skill and determination at Manfeild as he had to make many passes in the three races at the Manawatu circuit after struggling to get clear laps in qualifying. His best qualifying session was the Super Pole segment, where he was seventh fastest, just .488 of a second off pole position. However, a complicated qualifying format meant the time brought him no great benefit.
While he was within .8 of a second of the fastest times in the other two sessions, such was the competitiveness of the series it meant grid positions outside the top 10 for the three races.
However, Leitch is one driver who can make up places in such a competitive field.
In the first race on Saturday afternoon over 20 laps, Leitch managed to climb from 15th to 12th by the end of the race.
"It is very hard to pass in these cars, so I was pleased with that," he said.
Yesterday morning's race was an eventful one.
After Leitch's good start, a competitor cut across the front of the Toyota, smashing the front wing.
Another car then suffered a stuck throttle and Leitch's car took a hit and was spun around.
He rejoined the race and battled his way up the order.
The car was not in good shape but because of his efforts, plus some penalties for other drivers, he claimed eighth place.
"It was a battle but we did reasonably well considering the damage," Leitch said.
The final race of the series was the country's biggest domestic event, the New Zealand Grand Prix over 35 laps.
Leitch made a good start but was baulked by another car that allowed two others to pass.
A crash in front of his car then allowed several others to pass as Leitch slowed to avoid the carnage.
He then set about salvaging his race, overtaking several cars as he climbed back to 11th before the laps ran out.
- The Southland Times