The 2011 Toyota Racing Series had five rounds with the first four making up a separate ‘International’ series. The final round of the international was at Manfeild and the NZ Grand Prix meeting. Mitch Evans was the dominant driver for the series, winning the GP, the International and the five round Toyota Racing Series. Here is Grant McDonald’s weekend review for Nick Cassidy….
Podium Series finish for Cassidy (2011)
A thrilling conclusion of the Toyota International Racing Series has seen teenage sensation Nick Cassidy finish the top rookie and third overall, giving New Zealand drivers two of the three top positions. With overseas drivers making up the majority of the field, the four-round series finished with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild.
The NZGP quickly became a two-car race as eventual winner Mitch Evans and Cassidy battled for most of the race – the gap between them was never more than one second through-out.
As the race wound down over the closing laps and Cassidy was close up behind the leader when he was caught out by a sudden lack of ‘aero’ grip to the car in the high-speed corner leading onto the front straight. After just touching the ‘aggressive’ exit curb, the Fuchs/BNT Automotive sponsored car was launched into the air causing a half-spin. Cassidy stopped momentarily as he regained control of the car. That incident left Evans to charge off to the chequered flag with only a handful of laps to go.
“It was a silly mistake. It caught me by surprise,” said Cassidy. “To be able to stick with Mitch for most of the race was pretty satisfying. I knew I had the car speed, maybe not as good as him out of the tight infield hairpin. I really wanted to get close so I could put some pressure on to see if he might make a mistake. After following so close for the whole race, it meant my tyres weren’t in a good condition and I payed the price.”
“My best chance for a win was going to be in the last four laps, but unfortunately it was me who made the mistake and I wasn’t able to hold on to second place. I was totally gutted,” added a disappointed Cassidy.
Evans won the NZGP from Russian teenager Danill Kyvat and Australian Scott Pye – the current British Formula Ford champion, who then also inherited second place in the International Series from Cassidy.
In the 20-lap Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy preliminary race, Cassidy stalled off the line, but put up the was the most impressive drive-back seen in the whole series when he came from over half-a-lap down on the 16-car field up to 7th place. Then a slower competitor chopped Cassidy off while he was trying to make a pass and that dropped him down to 11th when the race finished a few laps later.
Cassidy still managed to set the fastest lap of the race, a mere 0.05-second off the lap record set by Earl Bamber in 2008.
“It was the round I felt most comfortable in the Fuchs/BNT car, and had the pace to show it. So it is natural to find the end result extremely disappointing. I will be back however, more motivated and determined for a strong showing at one of my favourite [racing] circuits in the country,” he added.
The fifth and final round is at the Taupo race circuit 11-13th March.
Evans won the series with 838 points to Pye on 628, Cassidy on 606 and Kvyat 600 points. Cassidy finished top rookie driver from Kvyat and German Mario Farnbacher on 397 points.
At the final round in Taupo, Cassidy won two races with Evans taking the third. Evans won the series on 973 points from Cassidy (805), Jamie McNee (675) and Scot Pye (628) who didn’t contest the Taupo round.