The Toyota Racing Series rolls on into its fourth championship weekend and after spending some downtime in Auckland Tatiana arrived at the Hampton Downs Motorpark on the outskirts of Auckland hoping to build on her fantastic 5th place result last time out in Taupo.
Rookies have an uphill battle in this Series with returning drivers having the advantage of experience and knowledge of the cars, circuits and teams and the free practice running before the race weekend helps to even things out, so it was a big blow when Thursdays Free Practice was lost as the track resurfacing work had overrun and the cars were reduced to ‘sighting laps’. Friday was spent learning the track and set up and as qualifying came closer Tatiana was still adapting to the circuit and car.
As the series reaches its penultimate weekend the field is becoming increasing close, just over 1 second covering the now 19 car field, with returning Champion and GP2 driver Mitch Evans and European talent Ignazio D’Gusto joining the fray.
Qualifying was a struggle, “ I just couldn’t get the car to work” said the Columbian “ I felt so slow but no matter where I brake the fronts lock and I cant make the apex for understeer, I am surprised I’m not further off the pace” As it was Tatiana was set for starts in race 1 and 3 on the back rows of the 19 car grid but matched closely to her teammates Nandy, Tang and Tanart.
A solid start saw Tatiana move up and pass Tang as the pack bunched ahead, it was not to last long however as the cars at the front of the pack came together in spectacular fashion as team mate Mardenborough was assaulted by the Brazilian Bonifacio from behind, the latters car being launched high into the air and the resulting chaos causing several drivers to collide or take avoiding action. Having safely negotiated the melee the resulting red flag saw Tatiana return to the original grid slot whilst many around her were taking running repairs ahead of the race restart.
At the second attempt Tatiana again made a solid getaway, the car seeming to perform better in race conditions. This time she was able to clear the cars that should have been behind her in qualifying and ran in 13th and looking assured to progress.
Then more disruption, teammate Nandy who had got ahead at the restart failed to negotiate the turn 4 hairpin and collided hard with the barriers. The safety car led the field around with Tatiana bagging a further place and running 12th in close company with newcomer D’Agusto and Thai teammate Tanart.
The restart, again maintaining station and looking capable of pulling through the field. This time it was not the competitors who posed the challenge to her position but the track itself. The newly laid surface starting to break up and grip becoming an impossibility.
Losing traction and a place out of turn 4 a battle ensued lap after lap with Tang, D’Agusto and Tanart. Cleverly learning from her earlier misfortune on the loose surface and using the advantage to push D’Agusto wide where she had earlier suffered, gave some satisfaction.
At the flag Tatiana was 12th, the position she will start race 2 tomorrow and be looking for a race with less drama as she quests to achieve a result from a so far difficult weekend.
Tatiana returns to the cockpit for rounds 11 and 12 of the 15 race championship at the Hampton Downs Motorpark on the 3rd February 2013.