Home FeaturesPreviews PaddockScout Preview: 2012 action kicks off in New Zealand

PaddockScout Preview: 2012 action kicks off in New Zealand

by Peter Allen

Photo: Toyota Racing Series

An exciting range of international drivers from GP2 to karting join some of the top Kiwi talents for the Toyota Racing Series, held across New Zealand over five straight weekends…

This weekend may only be the second of the year, but for some junior racers it marks the beginning of their campaign. The Toyota Racing Series has attracted a growing number of international racers year-on-year, all keen to get some practice in ahead of their respective seasons. 20 drivers are set to take part, racing for four different teams.

Mitch Evans secured his second straight title last year, prior to heading to Europe and making a stunning impression in GP3. As a result he would be the overwhelming favourite this year – but only if were doing all the rounds. Instead he is joining at the fourth round of the series at Hampton Downs as he prepares to defend his title in the New Zealand Grand Prix – which is the fifth and final round at Manfeild.

With Evans absent for the opening three rounds, it is fellow 17-year-old Kiwi and Giles Motorsport teammate Nick Cassidy who looks set to be the man to beat. Cassidy finished runner-up to Evans last year as a rookie, and will hope to beat the international drivers as he looks towards a full campaign of racing in Europe later in 2012. He appeared in ADAC Formel Masters and Formula Abarth late in 2011, and also impressed in Formula Renault testing at the end of the year. With his knowledge of both the circuits and the car, it’ll be hard for him to be stopped.

The rest of the Giles team’s lineup is made up of four overseas racers. Bruno Bonifacio (17, Brazil) was Class B champion in the South American F3 championship last year, and also raced in Formula Abarth towards the end of the year. He is joined by Felix Serralles (19, Puerto Rico), who will race in British F3 this year after a year in Formula Renault in Europe.

17-year-old Austrian Lucas Auer meanwhile is set for the German F3 Cup this year after winning the JK Racing Asia Series as a karting graduate. His uncle is none other than Gerhard Berger. Completeing the Giles lineup is Hannes van Asseldonk (19, Netherlands), who came fifth in German F3 in 2011 and also impressed by repeating that result in the prestigous Macau Grand Prix at the end of the season.

The second team on the entry list is Victory Motor Racing, whose lineup consists of two local racers and two international drivers. The two Kiwis are Chris Vlok and Damon Leitch, both 19 years of age. Joining them are Dmitry Suranovich and Michela Cerruti. 16-year-old Russian Suranovich made the step up from karting to car racing during 2011, contesting the second half of the Formula Abarth season. He also tested for the Manor and Addax teams in GP3. Italian female racer Cerruti, 24, meanwhile makes her first apperance in single-seater racing after winning a race of the high-powered touring car series Superstars last year. She too tested in GP3 post-season.

Five cars are being run by ETEC Motorsport, who run one native in the form of experienced Porsche racer Jono Lester. The headline name in their lineup however is Josh Hill, who carries great pressure with both his father and grandfather having been world champions. Having raced in TRS last year the 21-year-old Brit should be the leading contender from the international contingent, off the back of a season in Formula Renault UK.

Josh Hill begins the campaign among the leading contenders. Photo: Toyota Racing Series

The rest of the ETEC lineup is made up of 23-year-old Malaysian Melvin Moh, who has previously raced in Formula BMW Pacific, karting graduate Victor Sendin (16, France) who is a protege of former A1 GP champion Alexandre Premat, and 16-year-old Indian Shahaan Engineer who made his single-seater debut in the recent Formula Renault UK Finals Series.

The final team on the grid is M2 Competition, who field five international drivers. Leading them is 22-year-old Nathanael Berthon who has raced in Formula Renault 3.5 for the past two years as well as selected GP2 appearances in 2011. He also made his F1 testing debut for HRT in Abu Dhabi last November. One of the most exciting drivers on the entry list is Rafffaele Marciello, an Italian protege of Ferrari. Despite only turning 17 last month, he is already a race winner in Italian F3 and will step up to the Euro Series later this year.

Also in the M2 roster is 17-year-old Brit Jordan King, who raced against Hill in Formula Renault UK last year and also impressed on limited appearances in the FIA Formula Two Championship. He also claimed victory in the MRF Formula competition in support of the Indian Grand Prix. Joining King is Indian-born British national Sheban Siddiqi, aged 23, who raced in the German-based ADAC Formel Masters in 2011. The grid is completed by 19-year-old Thai Tanart Sathienthirakul.

The full entry list can be seen below:

Team No. Driver
Giles Motorsport 1 Mitch Evans
2 Nick Cassidy
5 Bruno Bonifacio
6 Felix Serralles
15 Lucas Auer
16 Hannes van Asseldonk
Victory Motor Racing 4 Chris Vlok
20 Dmitry Suranovich
87 Damon Leitch
88 Michela Cerruti
ETEC Motorsport 7 Jono Lester
8 Melvin Moh
9 Victor Sendin
10 Josh Hill
11 Shahaan Engineer
M2 Competition 42 Jordan King
43 Tanart Sathienthirakul
51 Sheban Siddiqi
52 Nathanael Berthon
53 Raffaele Marciello


Date Circuit
12?15 January Teretonga Park, Invercargill
19?22 January Timaru International Motor Raceway, Timaru
26?29 January Taupo Motorsport Park, Taupo
2?5 February Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Waikato
9?12 February Manfeild Autocourse, Feilding

Stay tuned to PaddockScout.com and our Twitter feed for the latest from the Toyota Racing Series during the next five weeks.