Tveter shows off his hardware. (Mark Baker photo)
America’s Ryan Tveter recorded the first podium finish of his racing career Saturday in a tough international field of Toyota Racing Series competitors at the brand-new Highlands Motorsport Park near Queenstown, New Zealand.
Driving the Game Ready Injury Treatment Systems No. 4 which is also sponsored by the Autobau Museum in Switzerland, the 19-year-old driver from Oyster Bay, N.Y. placed third in the first of three TRS races at Highlands this weekend.
Tveter was fast in all the practice sessions and he posted his best qualifying results to date when he was fourth in the first qualifying session on Saturday morning and third in the second qualifying session minutes later.
Tveter, at far left, uses a great start to propel him from fourth to third place in Saturday’s race. He ran in third the rest of the way. (Bruce Jenkins photo)
That gave him the fourth starting spot in the 22-car field for the first race, which was held Saturday afternoon. The start was key and he got a great one. He took third right off the bat by passing the third-place starter, Jann Mardenborough. The top three of Martin Rump, Andrew Tang and Tveter never changed after lap one of the 13-lap race.
It was a great result for Giles Motorsport, since it prepared both Tveter and Rump’s cars. And although it wasn’t the most dramatic battle Tveter has ever had, the podium finish made it most memorable.
Tveter’s fastest lap in the race was lap 10, which he did in 1:31.485. That was the fourth-fastest lap run in that contest.
The top eight finishers in the first race were inverted for the start of the second race, which put Tveter sixth on that grid Sunday morning for a wet start.
He passed Damon Leitch on the first lap to move into fifth, but Leitch and Rump passed him with five laps down to put him back to seventh. Tveter repassed Rump and was looking for another top-five finish, but he dropped from sixth to 19th working lap nine when his car stalled mid-turn. Luckily he spun into gravel and not a wall, but he had to retire at that point.
The third race, which was held Sunday afternoon, was difficult for Tveter. Hopes were extremely high, because he had qualified third and he actually got to start second when the polesitter couldn’t start due to mechanical difficulties.
Steijn Schothorst and Leitch passed him on the first lap, however, which pushed him back to fourth place. He stayed in fourth place through lap three, but then he had contact with Schothorst on the frontstretch on a restart with three laps down, sending him through the grass and also unintentionally knocking Schothorst out of the race.
Tveter was able to make it back to the pits for a new nose. His car had front suspension damage too, but he rejoined the field in 18th position, one lap down. He ran a 1:40.458 on lap 12 which was the sixth-fastest lap set during the race, which was remarkable considering the damage. He took the checkered flag in 15th position but he received a penalty for his role in the incident and the effort was termed a DNF.
“This weekend was the extreme of highs and lows,” Tveter said. “I had a few great firsts: my first podium, my first top-five qualifying, and my first top-three qualifying; and one not-so-great first — my first penalty.
“Learning from mistakes sometimes can be even more important than learning from success. This weekend I had a little bit of both.
“I’m so grateful to my engineer, Paul Woodhams; my team, Giles Motorsport, and my partners, Game Ready and Autobau. I have only great things to say about the Toyota Racing Series. I feel very privileged to be part of this elite competition.”
Next weekend the series travels to Hampton Downs in Auckland, New Zealand.