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Kiwi Brendon Leitch has rebounded from a forgettable performance in qualifying to finish fifth in the opening Formula 3 Asian Championship at Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Victory meanwhile went to Australian Jack Doohan.
The positive result was made sweeter by the fact that Leitch set the third fastest time in the race, meaning he will start the championship’s second race of the weekend tomorrow in third place.
The former Castrol Toyota Racing Series race winner could only qualify in 11th position, leaving plenty of work to do in the race. What Leitch required in order to make plenty of on-track passes was time, but that plan was immediately shot by a large crash off the start-line. Leitch was able to make two places as a result — improving to ninth — only for safety car to be summoned.
The crash was between SuperLicense Racing teammates Takashi Hata and Tomoki Takahashi. The latter had stalled on the line, with the former plowing into him after being initially unsighted.
A lengthy delay ensured, with officials thankfully eventually confirming that both drivers were OK. The race resumed, but with only a short, sharp 10 minutes to run.
The lead was held by Doohan with series leader Ukyo Sasahara, Jordan Dempsey, Petr Ptacek, and Daniel Cao in tow. It was a top five that had jumbled by the end of the lap, as Ptacek edged Dempsey into the final complex of corners and Cao followed by.
Leitch meanwhile was also making progress, plucking eighth place from James Yu. A lap later, and the Invercargill ace had also got past Kiyoto Fujinami. His efforts to get past the pair meant he had been able to stay glued to the tail end of the train of cars fighting for third.
Leitch’s push continued, with Dempsey and Jackson Walls his next targets. With just two minutes to go, he had weaved past them both — the latter pass taking place under brakes into turn one.
At the front Doohan and Sasahara battled on, having driven away from the third-place train. Doohan claimed the spot in the end with a few car-lengths in hand, as Sasahara and a distanct Ptacek completed the podium. Cao and Leitch rounded out the top five.
1. Jack Doohan
2. Ukyo Sasahara
3. Petr Ptacek
4. Daniel Cao
5. Brendon Leitch
6. Jordan Dempsey
7. Jackson Walls
8. Kiyoto Fujinami
9. Eshan Pieris
10. James Yu
11. Akash Gowda
12. Miki Koyama
13. Thomas Luedi
14. Paul Wong
15. Thomas Smith
DNF. Tomoki Takahashi
DNF. Takashi Hata