Photo: Toyota Racing Series
A big weekend in New Zealand saw two major trophies to be handed out, and they both went to rising Kiwi star Nick Cassidy…
After finishing runner-up in 2011, Nick Cassidy began the 2012 Toyota Racing Series as the title favourite, and this weekend he delivered on that by clinching the title at the fifth and final round at Manfeild. After getting that out of the way in the second of the weekend’s races, he took on Mitch Evans for the New Zealand Grand Prix crown in the third and final race, and would come out on top.
Evans locked out qualifying, taking pole position for both the first race and the Grand Prix. He would be joined on the front row for both races by fellow 17-year-old Aucklander Cassidy.
Evans made a good start in the first race and would lead until the checkered flag, creating a perfect start to his weekend. Cassidy was forced to give up second to nearest title rival Hannes van Asseldonk on the opening lap. Cassidy would close up later in the race but settled for third, with van Asseldonk’s second place keeping his slim title chances alive. Lucas Auer of Austria finished in fourth place, ahead of Josh Hill and Felix Serralles.
Race two saw the top six finishers from the first race reversed for the grid, putting Serralles on pole. The Puerto Rican held onto his lead at the start, but soon behind him was Evans, jumping up from sixth. Van Asseldonk meanwhile suffered a puncture on the opening lap after contact from Auer, and was unable to rejoin the race – handing Cassidy the title. Serralles managed to keep Evans at bay to win the race, with Hill completing the podium ahead of Auer and new champion Cassidy.
Onto the big race, the 35-lap Grand Prix. Evans and Cassidy retained the top two places off the grid, ahead of van Asseldonk. The safety car made two early interventions after both Raffaele Marciello and Jordan King took off-track excursions, with Marciello soon causing a third restart after he and Damon Leitch went off in seperate incidents.
Evans gradually extended his lead over Cassidy to fiveseconds as he looked to retain his title from 2011, but disaster then struck as his car spluttered to a halt. Cassidy came under attack from van Asseldonk in the closing stages, but held on to take the Grand Prix victory and add his name to a list of winners that includes Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, as well as Kiwi legends Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. Auer completed the podium behind van Asseldonk, with Bruno Bonifacio, Nathanael Berthon and Jono Lester completing the top six.
For the majority of the field the focus now shifts to their main season programmes. PaddockScout will have a driver-by-driver review of the Toyota Racing Series later next week.
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend: Mitch Evans – The youngster was again on the top of his game this weekend, winning the first race, finishing second in the third and all set to retain his Grand Prix title until his car gave up on him. A big season in Europe lies ahead for Mitch.
PaddockScout Index update: Cassidy finishes the TRS on top of the rankings, ahead of van Asseldonk and Hill, who jumps up from fifth place past the non-scoring Leitch and low-scoring King. Auer takes sixth place from Marciello, while Evans is up to ninth despite only contesting two of the five rounds.