- Disappointment for Evans who leads GP but goes out after electrical failure
- Van Asseldonk puts in determined drive to strong second overall
- Auer third and top rookie
West Auckland racer Nick Cassidy had his dream day at Manfeild on Sunday, sealing his Toyota Racing Championship title in the first race and then winning the New Zealand Grand Prix outright.
In the morning’s sprint race, won by Puerto Rican Félix Serralés, Cassidy amassed enough points to put the Toyota Racing Series out of reach of second-placed Hannes van Asseldonk.
Josh Hill had been third on points coming out of that race but went out of the Grand Prix after just a handful of laps. That allowed Southlander Damon Leitch back into third on points for the championship.
Mitch Evans, making a return to the series to defend his championship crown, took the early lead from pole, with Cassidy behind him and van Asseldonk a close third. Hill and young Austrian Lucas Auer were locked in battle for fourth, with Hill holding the position until a damaged radiator forced him out.
Auer and Bonifacio then engaged in a tussle for fourth through a series of pace car periods as the race progressed.. Two successive off-track excursions put Ferrari Driver Academy driver Raffaele Marciello out of the race; Damon Leitch went off in an unrelated incident and damaged his car’s front wing. He rejoined, then pitted to replace the front wing and would continue to the race finish, securing valuable points.
Michela Cerruti was shouldered aside at the start but fought her way back tenaciously and was steadily moving up through the field, battling with Marciello until he went off for a second time before finishing just behind Chris Vlok.
Sheban Siddiqi spun for a second time, dropping further down the field.
But at the front, Mitch Evans looked to have the race under control, dictating race pace and maintaining a gap of 1.3-2.1 seconds on second-placed Cassidy.
Then as he came down the start-finish straight with just seven laps left to run, his engine stuttered into a chronic electrical misfire, the young Aucklander coasting to a stop at the Lexus esses.
Nick Cassidy swept through into a lead he would never relinquish.
Behind him, Hannes van Asseldonk had pushed hard to stay with the Aucklander but was slipping out of touch. Lucas Auer was a secure third, with Bruno Bonifacio further back in fourth.
Cassidy took the win, his first Grand Prix title capping the morning’s championship in a fitting end to an epic day for the young Auckland driver. He is now seeking a northern hemisphere drive and has been in early discussions with influential team representatives who travelled to New Zealand for the championship.