Three top New Zealand race drivers converged on the spectacular Circuit of the Americas in Texas over the weekend, but only two came away with victory.
Racing in FIA Formula 4 USA alongside the high profile FIA World Endurance Championship, Southland race driver Brendon Leitch was figuratively rubbing shoulders with two great Kiwi race drivers – Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber were on their winning way in the main event, hunting down a championship title with Porsche.
But things were tougher for Leitch, who encountered difficult conditions in a car that was down on speed compared to his rivals.
‘We were hoping to be very competitive here, but the other teams had speed we couldn’t claw back,” he said afterward.
This meant he was only able to qualify 13th of 33 and was vulnerable to being dragged into incidents involving other racers. A penalty from the previous round dropped him further, to P22 for the race one grid. Leitch put in a determined, gritty drive and clawed his way through to be 16th at the finish.
Gridding one place higher for race two, Leitch was witness to one of the most bizarre incidents in the championship. The second race was disrupted by the presence of a massive yellow school bus on the circuit. Racing was red flagged while the lumbering 30-seater was escorted to the infield.
This time the Kiwi was ninth, banking valuable points for his championship campaign.
“That was a heck of a drive, I couldn’t go any quicker but we did our best and got into the top ten,” he said afterward.
A P10 grid for the third and final race of the weekend was converted into a provisional finish placing of 11th.
Leitch is holding on to a top ten in the points, currently ninth; his American team-mate Dakota Dickerson is sixth.The final round of the 2017 FIA Formula 4 Championship returns to the Circuit of the Americas next month as a support category for the US Grand Prix.