CASSIDY WINS ONE RACE TO RETAIN TOYOTA RACING SERIES LEAD 2

- BRDC drivers King and Hill in historic TRS 1-2 result for race one
- Cassidy and Leitch back in charge race two, extend points lead
- Hannes van Asseldonk wins Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy

Three races, three different winners, but the Toyota Racing Series lead remains firmly with Auckland racer Nick Cassidy.

Jordan King, Cassidy and Dutch racer Hannes van Asseldonk all won a race at the third round of the TRS, held at Taupo this weekend.

The championship points table as the TRS reaches its midpoint sees New Zealand drivers still in control. A fifth in the first race, a win in the second and eighth in the feature race were enough to keep Nick Cassidy well in control of the championship, taking 546 points to the next round at Hampton Downs with Damon Leitch second on 517 and Josh Hill moving up to third on 424 points.

The weekend began with top results for the British drivers Jordan King and Josh Hill. King took his first win of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series on Saturday, setting a new outright lap record for the 3.32 km Taupo Motorsport Park track in the process. The identical Toyota Racing Series cars are consistently the fastest domestic race category; King’s new benchmark at Taupo is 1:24.444.

Racing from pole position, King set his mark on the race from the green light, sweeping ahead of young Austrian Lucas Auer (nephew of Formula One great Gerhard Berger) on the short start straight and into the first corner. He was never headed, extending his lead to three seconds during the race.

King’s win set up an historic 1-2 for the TRS. He and Josh Hill are both members of the British Racing Drivers Club’s elite Rising Stars mentoring programme.

In the second race, championship leaders Nick Cassidy and Damon Leitch re-asserted their dominance with a 1-2 result that extended their championship points lead.

Ferrari Driver Academy racer Raffaele Marciello held the lead briefly during the opening laps but was reeled in by Leitch and Cassidy, who carved through the field to the front over four laps. Cassidy was fourth after a bad start but recovered in a stirring drive to win, setting fastest lap of the race on lap 14 of 15, a 1:24.486. High winds slowed the cars on the front straight and meant the new lap record set by British driver Jordan King remained intact.

The flying Kiwi drivers are outnumbered 3:1 in the series but have shared the championship points lead from the first round onward, Leitch holding the early lead and Cassidy leading from the second round onward.

In the feature race, the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, Hannes van Asseldonk and Josh Hill had the front row, and away from the start the pair were locked in a wheel to wheel battle for the first corner. Van Asseldonk emerged with the lead, harried by Hill for the next five laps. The Dutch driver slowly opened out a lead of half a second, then a whole second, then two.

He was pushing his car to the limit, losing grip under braking into the tight left-right of turn 12 lap after lap. Others too were having trouble slowing from the 235 km/h main straight, including Lucas Auer and Jordan King, both of whom straight-lined the corner more than once.

Fastest lap of the race was set by van Asseldonk, a 1:24.707 on lap 7 of 20.

Ferrari Driver Academy racer Raffaele Marciello was continuing to have problems with his car’s set-up, locking front tyres as he braked for turn 12, turn 1 and turn 7. He flat-spotted his left front tyre and pitted on lap ten to have it replaced.

King was now working on Hill as Hill lost touch with the race leader, and lined him up for a pass but then undid his hard work when he went straight on under brakes at turn 12.

Jono Lester began to reel in Nick Cassidy, who had found his tyres losing grip as the race went past middle distance.

He was not able to overtake Cassidy but said his car’s set-up was significantly improved.

With seven laps to go, van Asseldonk had consolidated his lead; Hill two seconds behind and King another two seconds adrift.

Fourth overall, Felix Serralles headed up a freight train of talented young racers, but was pulling away from Lucas Auer, Nathanael Berthon, Bruno Bonifacio and the Kiwis Nick Cassidy and Jono Lester.

Up front, Josh Hill’s car was proving tail-happy under heavy braking and he was losing touch with van Asseldonk. The Dutch racer controlled the gap over the last two laps, taking an unpressured win to be fourth for the series.

The 2012 Toyota Racing Series now heads to Hampton Downs for the fourth round of five. The feature race of the coming weekend is for the historic NZ Motor Cup, a trophy with some of motor racing’s most famous names on it.

* image attached: Hannes van Asseldonk leads Josh Hill on his way to victory in the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race