Toyota Racing Series champion Nick Cassidy is not fazed by having to play catch-up when his series stages its second round at Timaru this weekend.
The 18-year-old Aucklander stands fourth in this year’s series after recording finishes of second, fourth and eighth at the opening round in Invercargill, handicapped by having to start 16th on the grid for the final race after suffering a puncture in qualifying.
“We’re absolutely fine,” Cassidy said, pointing to his impressive lap times at Invercargill. “In race one we were second fastest and in race two we were fastest.
“In race three we were very strong. There was not much passing in the first two races but we picked up eight places in race three.”
Cassidy’s speed is especially noteworthy as the series is extremely strong this year. For example, Puerto Rican Felix Serralles and Englishman Alex Lynn finished third and fourth respectively in the important British Formula 3 championship last year.
“People used to race here and then go to Formula 3, now they go from Formula 3 to here,” Cassidy commented.
The young Kiwi has fond memories of the Timaru meeting last season.
“That was really where I won the championship,” he said. “There was mixed weather and a lot of guys had problems, but I got two wins and a third.”
Serralles leads the series by five points from Austrian Lucas Auer, whose uncle is former Formula 1 star Gerhard Berger. Last year Auer finished second in the German Formula 3 Cup.
Third is Brazilian Pipo Derani, who won race two at Invercargill after the marble draw gave him pole position for that race. Derani was eighth in the 2012 British Formula 3 championship.
In NZV8s, Australian Jason Bargwanna leads young Hamilton driver Martin Short by just one point. Both are driving the fast new-generation cars, Bargwanna a Holden Commodore and Short a Toyota Camry, and these two should again be battling for the victories.
The championship category for the older NZV8s is set to feature more sibling rivalry between the young Lauder brothers from Turua. Between them AJ Lauder, 18, and his brother Brad, just 16, won all three races at Invercargill and AJ leads the championship.
Brad Lauder confirmed that the brothers were competitive with each other. “He gave me a bit of grief after the first race but I got him back after race two,” he said.
Formula Ford always provides close racing, as illustrated by the fact that Michael Collins from Christchurch and Brendon Leitch from Invercargill are tied for the lead. However the most impressive performance at Invercargill was that of 15-year-old Christchurch driver James Munro, who won his first ever race in this class.
Australian Steve Zammit leads the Super Trucks championship and looks set to retain his title after winning two of his three races in Invercargill. Other classes to be contested include Sports GT, Production GT and NZ6. Most categories have one race on Saturday and two on Sunday.