The 2012 Toyota Racing Series
The 2012 Champion. The Auckland Ace – Nick Cassidy
Quick Cassidy & the Dutch Kid. The fifteen races, packed in five weekends, Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand is over. Local talent, Nick Cassidy, defended the home honors against strong foreign invasion to win the championship – after taking second last year to fellow Kiwi Mitch Evans.
Hannes van Asseldonk, the Boekel-born Dutch driver, finished an impressive second in the championship. Last year he raced in the German F3 and was fifth in the prestigious Macau F3 Grand Prix.
Green, green grass of New Zealand. The season started on the weekend of January 15 at Teretonga Park in Invercargill. The winner of the opening race of the season had a very famous name and familiar helmet colors, Hill and the London Rowing Club.
Familiar Helmet & Famous Name. Josh Hill races on a legendary legacy. Both father and grandfather were Formula 1 World Champions.
Josh Hill, the son of 1996 World Champion Damon and grandson of 1962 & ’68 World Champion Graham, was the winner after starting fourth on the grid. The pole-sitter, DNF in the race, Lucas Auer, also has F1 pedigree. His uncle gave Benetton their first and final victory in Grand Prix racing, Gerhard Berger.
The Boy from Boekel. Dutchman Hannes van Asseldonk won three races and was runner-up in the 2012 Championship.
Hannes van Asseldonk won the second race after surviving a heavy downpour on the final lap over Cassidy.
Hannes went double Dutch in the final race with Cassidy again second. Puerto Rican Felix Serralles was fourth.
The series then moved to the Timaru International Raceway. The track is great mixture of fast flowing and tight ‘first and second’ gear turns.
Nick Cassidy launched his championship challenge with victory in the opening race of the weekend over Damon Leitch. Hill was third man on the podium and Serralles picked up another fourth place finish.
Cassidy triumphed again in the second race while Serralles enjoyed his first podium finish in the series. English racer Jordan King was third.
Damon Leitch became the second Kiwi winner in the final race of the weekend. Russian Dmitry Suranovich was second while Cassidy made his third podium appearance of the weekend.
Scenic Taupo hosted the halfway point of the series on the 3.3km International track, which was also used by A1GP Series in days that are no more. The track is anti-clockwise and features a long downhill main straight.
European drivers swept the top four positions in the opening race. Jordan felt good to be King ahead of second place Josh Hill and Hannes was third.
Italian Raffaele Marciello, part of Ferrari Driver Development program, was fourth. Nick Cassidy was the top local driver in fifth.
Cassidy climbed the top step of the podium in race two, ahead of Damon Leitch and Marciello.
Race three saw third win of the series for Hannes. Hill was second and King third. Serralles was fourth Berger’s boy Lucas Auer fifth.
Roman Racer. Italian Michela Cerruti was the only lady in this year’s Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand.
The penultimate round of this year’s championship took place at the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. The 2.63km circuit incorporates elevation changes over gentle hill country in the Waikato region of New Zealand.
Mitch Evans, a local talent and Mark Webber protégé who raced in GP3 last season, led a Giles Motorsport sweep of the podium winning over Hannes and Cassidy. Auer continued his fine run to finish fourth.
Raffaele Marciello did the “Italian Job” and won the second race of the weekend, his first in the series. Auer was second and Jordan King third.
Cassidy came back in the third and final race of the weekend to take the win over fellow Kiwi Evans with Hannes third, meaning second sweep of the podium by Giles Motorsport.
The Scenery is beautiful in New Zealand but racing is tough. Fifteen races in five weekends.
The final round was staged at Manfeild Park in Feilding, near Palmerston North. A driver and fan favorite, the circuit can run both ways.
The opening race for the Dan Higgins Trophy was won by Evans. His teammates took the next three places; Hannes was second and Cassidy third. Auer was fourth and Josh Hill was fifth for ETEC Motorsport.
Second race was the biggest success so far for Felix Serralles. The Puerto Rican cat scratched a close victory over Mitch Evans by 0.257s. Josh Hill was third.
Cassidy came in fifth which was enough to give him victory in the Championship.
The final race of the season – The 57th New Zealand Grand Prix – was icing on the cake for the newly crowned Champion, and a nice present from race leader Evans, his engine developed misfire. Cassidy taking the win over Hannes in second and Lucas Auer in third. Cassidy joining the ranks of the late Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart as a winner of this prestigious NZ motorsports event.
The inaugural Toyota Racing Series in 2005 – promoted then as the “First NZ Missile Launch – was won by Brent Collins. So far the championship winners have all been Kiwi racers.
The Italian-built Tatuus chassis is mated to a Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine, running in a modified race tune and powered by an 85% ethanol bio-fuel. The cars provide drivers with valuable experience of ‘aero’ wings and slicks. The full carbon fibre chassis and 215bhp provides plenty of performance and excitement.
“Oh! What a feeling for the drivers?”
— Nasir Hameed
Greetings and Racing regards from California.
All photos courtesy of Toyota Racing NZ & Bruce Jenkins.