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Cassidy is winning driver and teacher at Grand Prix

9 February 2014

Cassidy is winning driver and teacher at Grand Prix

Nick Cassidy could claim multiple success as he won the New Zealand Grand Prix for the third straight year at Manfeild today.

The Aucklander – who had not raced since last year’s GP – has been working with the Neale Motorsport team to coach its drivers, Singaporean Andrew Tang and Kiwi James Munro. Tang finished third in the big race and won the Toyota Racing Series by one point from Welsh driver Jann Mardenborough.

Christchurch driver Munro, recently turned 17, came fifth in the GP and just missed the Rookie of the Year award, which went to Estonian Martin Rump.

Cassidy had won the previous two TRS championships and has proved his speed in testing for European teams, but has not been able to find the sponsorship to finance a season in Europe.

“This year I’m hoping to be racing in Europe or Australia,” he said.

He had qualified on pole for the GP and led all the way, mostly with a small but safe gap back to second place. On each restart, after a safety-car period bunched the field up, he was able to break away again.

“After each restart I try to put in a fast lap,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting this; I thought it would be a tough job.

“The car was really good all through the race.”

The lack of racing over the last year had not affected him because he had done 25 days of testing in Europe, he said.

“In GP3 testing I was always one of the fastest,” he said.

Tang ran second much of the way but Mardenborough closed in and Tang did not resist too hard, as he knew he would still win the series and did not want to risk a crash.

“I lost my right-hand mirror after about five laps so I didn’t know exactly where Jann was,” he said.

“Of course I wanted to win the Grand Prix but winning the championship is just as good in my view.”

Now, however, Tang looks like being out of racing for the next two years as he has to start his compulsory military service. There are no race tracks in Singapore apart from the temporary street circuit used for the Formula One Grand Prix.

Mardenborough, who is sponsored by Nissan as the result of winning a Gran Turismo competition on PlayStation, was disappointed to miss the championship by such a small margin but pleased he had proved himself one of the top drivers.

“When I came here Nissan’s aim was that I’d fight for the championship so it’s mission accomplished,” he said.

Munro ran third early on but got caught out on one of the restarts. Invercargill driver Damon Leitch finished third in the championship for the second time in spite of crashing out of the GP.

Dutchman Steijn Schothorst, a fast driver who has had some bad luck this series, won this morning’s race, came fourth in the GP and won the final round overall.

Australian Jason Bargwanna seized the lead in the NZV8 Touring Cars as he won all three races in his Toyota Camry while previous leader Nick Ross from Cambridge failed to finish this morning’s race because of an electrical fault on his Holden Commodore.

This pair put on some spectacular close-quarters racing with minor contact on several occasions, though both drivers accepted this as part of the game. Bargwanna’s victory in the final race earned him the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy for the second time.

In the V8s’ TL category for the older cars Barry Holden – racing again after a gap of several years – won both of today’s races.

Holden said he used to be a Holden fan because of his name but switched to Ford because that was the most suitable car available. “I thought about that for a week before we bought the car,” he said.

Aucklander Andrew Waite won two of the races for the Toyota TR 86 coupes but Wellington’s Jamie McNee took the other heat and increased his lead in the championship.

McNee led this morning’s race and survived a solid thump from Waite’s car at the hairpin on the final lap, Waite admitting his attempt to pass had not paid off. At the next corner Waite was the victim of a hit from Tom Alexander and spun off; Alexander was penalised 50 seconds for the incident.

In NZ Formula Ford Jamie Conroy won all three races, although he said his Mygale car had not been handling very well in yesterday’s race. “The banked corners here are interesting, and good fun,” he said of his first visit to Manfeild.

ENDS

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