Liam Lawson

Lawson & Tsunoda lock out the wins in New Zealand's Toyota Series

#1 Liam Lawson (NZL – M2 Competition Toyota FT-60)
Qualifying 1: 2nd – Race 1 Grid: 2nd – Race 1 Result: 1st
Race 2 reverse top 6 grid: 6th – Race 2 Result: 5th
Qualifying 2: 1st – Race 3 Grid: 1st – Race 3 Result: 1st
Castrol Toyota Series position: 1st – 82 points – after 3 of 15 races

#33 Yuki Tsunoda (JAP – M2 Competition Toyota FT-60)
Qualifying 1: 6th – Race 1 Grid: 6th – Race 1 Result: 5th
Race 2 reverse top 6 grid: 2nd – Race 2 Result: 1st
Qualifying 2: 6th – Race 3 Grid: 6th – Race 3 Result: 4th
Castrol Toyota Series position: 3rd – 66 points – after 3 of 15 races

Red Bull Juniors Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda split the three Toyota Series race wins between them in the opening round at the Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand. Reigning champion Lawson's double sees him head the points table and 19-year-old Japanese Tsunoda lies third, just 2 points off second.

17-year-old New Zealander Lawson was in superb form, making sure that he did not get carried away in the first weekend of five that run back to back. Second fastest in first Qualifying the M2 Competition driver didn't over drive in Race 1. "We had a decent start but I couldn't quite get Caio (pole man Caio Collet) off the line," he said. "The cars have a lot of downforce, more than last year. Around a track like this with lots of long corners, there aren't that many places to pass. I tried but I just couldn't get close enough. It's the first race of the season and I didn't want to risk anything. At the end of the day it's a solid result but we need to go a bit better in qualifying. There's still more speed in the car."

Post race it was determined that Collet had made an illegal practice start on the warm up lap and he was given a 5 second penalty. Thus Lawson was elevated to the win. The Kiwi did extract that speed in Sunday morning second Qualifying, ensuring himself pole for Race 3.

Faster on Day 2

"It was very successful weekend in the end and I am very happy with it. Q1 wasn't perfect, I didn't quite nail the lap and there was a bit more to come from the car. In Q2 this morning we had the car right and I put in a pretty decent lap so in the race it was just a question of making a good start and managing the gap."

"Winning the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup for Race 3 means a great deal. Kenny Smith has been a wonderful mentor to me and that is his Mum's trophy so it is very important."

"Highlands is a fantastic circuit, probably my favourite in all the world and it has been a wonderful place to start the year. It isn't easy to pass here though and the new car makes that harder. I think there will be circuits in the series where passing should be a bit easier but Qualifying is going to be very important and there is certainly more to come from the car and from me," concluded Lawson.

Tsunoda just starting

Making his New Zealand debut, Tsunoda was impressive in the M2 Competition Toyota FT-60. "In the end it is was not a bad weekend, it was very important to pick up good points in all three races and of course very nice to win in the first weekend."

"But we can do a lot better. I struggled with the new car and we had some technical issues that cost us quite a bit of track time."

"In first Qualifying I was having trouble changing up and lost out on some straight lime speed. In both sessions I ran into quite a lot of traffic. There are many things we can improve for the next round. By the end of the weekend I was more comfortable in the car but certainly there is still a lot of improvements we can make, more from my driving and the car."

First win down under

Tsunoda's race win came on Sunday, starting from second on the reverse grid for Race 2. "The beginning of the race to the middle I was quite fast compared to the others," said the Honda Formula Dream Project driver. "The car balance was very good but toward the end of the race it did get quite tough. The car behind was quicker than I was so it definitively wasn't as easy as it looked. I was trusting my engineer that the pace was still there and was just trying to not make a mistake as passing here is difficult."