Championship Defence a Challenge for Cassidy
CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENCE A CHALLENGE FOR CASSIDY
• New team, new engineer for 2012 champion Cassidy
• Invercargill’s Leitch ‘best prepared ever’
• Strong international entry for 2013
Defending Toyota Racing Series champion Nick Cassidy faces possibly the biggest challenge of his motorsport career as the 2013 championship gets under way.
Not only is he facing what many say is the strongest field of international racers ever to contest TRS, he is doing so with a new race team, a new engineer and new mechanics.
A field of 18 drivers will contest the series, which begins this weekend (11-13 January) at Teretonga Park circuit near Invercargill and runs over five weekends and fifteen races from Teretonga in the deep south to the final round at Manfeild near Feilding. At stake are some of the most historic and prestigious trophies in New Zealand motorsport including the New Zealand Grand Prix title. The Grand Prix is the final race in the series.
Aucklander Cassidy (18), went from winning the rookie title in 2011 to winning the championship in 2012. He has switched from the multiple championship-winning Giles Motorsport team to be part of a six car entry from Hamilton-based M2 Competition and says he relishes the challenge of tackling TRS with the new team, a new engineer and new mechanics.
“I learned a lot in Europe in 2012, and one thing every race driver has to know is how to relate to their engineer and mechanics and communicate what the car is doing clearly to them,” he says.
Racing with the respected British team Fortec, Cassidy competed in several Formula Renault Eurocup races after winning the TRS title in 2012 and later in the year he tested a GP3 car for the Status GP team. In between, he also filled in for an injured Greg Murphy in the New Zealand V8 Supertourer event at Taupo, winning on his first outing in the big, brutal touring cars.
With strong local and international interest in the series, Cassidy faces strong opposition this year.
Kiwi Damon Leitch (Invercargill) was third in the championship in 2012 and is back for 2013. He won his home round at Teretonga to take an early points lead in 2012 and stayed with the leaders as the championship made its way north. Leitch (19) has spent the winter securing sponsorship for the series, working on his fitness and racing in the South Island’s regional karting championships to stay race-fit.
Cassidy and Leitch are joined by a third New Zealander, Te Puke’s Michael Scott (18), who is stepping up from Formula Ford to make his ‘wings and slicks’ debut in TRS.
Arriving this week to compete against the young New Zealanders are 15 drivers from around the world, some of them with prior experience of TRS. International drivers returning for their second season of TRS this year are Brazilian Bruno Bonifacio , Puerto Rican Félix Serrallés, British driver Alex Lynn, Austrian Lucas Auer and Thailand’s Tanart Sathienthirakul. These drivers know New Zealand’s circuits from their 2012 TRS campaigns and know the FT40 cars used in the championship. All competed in Europe with outstanding results in 2012.
Serrallés finished third in British Formula 3 championship; Lynn won the Formula Renault 2.0 UK championship in 2011 and recently took pole at the famous Macau Grand Prix Formula 3 race, finishing third in his rookie debut; Auer finished second in the 2012 German Formula 3 championship and Bruno Bonifacio finished third in the Formula Abarth European championship.
TRS will again have a young female driver on the starting grid: Colombian Tatiana Calderon comes to New Zealand fresh from a strong campaign in the 2012 European Open F3 series.
Jann Mardenborough from Cardiff in the UK is a unique entry, a gamer-turned-racer. Outright victory in the Nissan Sony Playstation Gran Turismo gaming competition in 2011 won him the opportunity to compete in a season of GT racing in 2012. He comes to TRS to gain experience in an open-wheel race car on his way to competing in the famous Le Mans 24-Hour sportscar race.
Championship organisers say the Toyota Racing Series has been a stand out success, offering many young New Zealand racing drivers the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to compete at the highest levels of motorsport around the world. Young international drivers come to New Zealand to race TRS to hone their skills on unfamiliar tracks while their European tracks are closed for winter.
Now entering its ninth season, the Toyota Racing Series has not yet been won by an international driver. The 2013 series will be televised on SKY and Prime TV in New Zealand, on Speed TV in Australia and to a further 39 countries on the Motors TV network in Europe.