Photo: Bruce Jenkins
Nick Cassidy claims his second Toyota Racing Series and New Zealand Grand Prix titles at Manfeild, while Conor Daly overhauls Jordan King to win MRF Challenge in India…
Toyota Racing Series
Defending series champion Nick Cassidy entered the final round of the season at Manfeild in a fairly comfortable place in the standings, leading his two main rivals for the title, Lucas Auer and Alex Lynn, by 32 and 52 points respectively. While it was the Brit who took pole for both races one and three, as the qualifying was held in a novelty form of sorts (with three sessions, the best time from sessions one and two determining the grid for race one and the average time from all three sessions determining the grid for race three), Cassidy remained the obvious favourite by lining up in third and second, while Auer’s troubles in session one meant he would have to start race three from 13th (and race one from fourth).
In race one, Lynn, as had often happened throughout the season, did not manage to make the most out of his pole position, as he was overtaken right from the start by Steijn Schothorst. The Dutchman proceeded to lead for the rest of the race with Cassidy finishing in second, his main rivals Lynn and Auer in third and fourth, and Steijn’s brother Pieter Schothorst rounding out the top five in his first TRS race.
It was Felix Serralles, having finished eighth in race one, who inherited reverse-grid pole for race two. However, with him leading for most of the race, the things most crucial to the title were happening behind, as both Steijn Schothorst and Auer made great starts and started climbing up the field. Auer forced the Dutchman off-track to get past and proceeded to overtake Bruno Bonifacio in second and then the Puerto Rican in the lead for the win.
Auer winning would’ve decreased the gap between him and Cassidy, allowing him right back into the title fight, but it was not to be, as he was handed a 50-second post-race penalty for his incident with Schothorst, which subsequently demoted him from the top ten. Giles Motorsport drivers Serralles (finished second on the road) and Pipo Derani (originally fourth) also received post-race penalties, marginally changing the look of the top five. As such, Bonifacio inherited the win, with Cassidy promoted to second and Ignazio D’Agosto earning his maiden TRS podium in third. The top five, post-race penalties taken into account, was completed by a recovering Steijn Schothorst (as his brother failed to finish the race after running in third) and Dennis Olsen. Lynn had a terrible outing, finishing way down the order and losing his title chances.
As such, following race two and the steward decisions, Cassidy was the crowned champion. However, seemingly anxious to prove himself worthy of a second consecutive title, Cassidy took a dominant victory in the third race, the 35-lap New Zealand Grand Prix special. The polesitter Lynn finished second and, with Auer down in sixth, that allowed the Brit to take second in the overall standings. Steijn Schothorst, Derani and Bonifacio completed the top five.
Another local series with an impressive roster of international junior drivers wrapped up this weekend, with the 2012-13 season of the MRF Challenge coming to a close at Madras. Just as in the Toyota Racing Series, MRF could’ve seen a repeat winner in Jordan King, who took the MRF Formula Championship title in 2011. However, luck wasn’t exactly at his side and Conor Daly, who entered the final weekend five points behind King, was crowned champion.
Young Brit Jon Lancaster took pole for races one and three in qualifying, narrowly beating Josh Hill and Luciano Bacheta. King qualified in fourth while Daly could only manage 13th, seemingly increasing the Brits title chances.
Come the first race it was Hill who emerged victorious, passing Lancaster for the lead early on and keeping him at bay for the rest of the race. Bacheta stayed ahead of King for third, while Sam Dejonghe and Daly rounded out the top six, with Daly gaining reverse grid-pole for race two.
The reverse-grid race played out in the exact order it started, with Daly taking a confident, commandeering victory ahead of Dejonghe and King, with Bacheta, Lancaster and King rounding out the top six.
Race three was another case of Lancaster not getting the best out of his pole position, as he was narrowly beaten to victory by King. The race was rich in stoppages, as Parth Ghorpade rolling his car brought out the first red flag, the second being caused by Bacheta and Yuudai Jinkawa colliding. Hill rounded out the podium.
Finally, the reverse-grid race four saw Alice Powell start from first, but she got it all wrong in the first corner and went out. The dirt caused by her accident caught King (who was, at that time, leading the championship) out as well and, with him falling far back, Daly got a real shot at the title.
His chances became even better when on lap nine the race leader Dejonghe stalled, allowing Daly through to the lead, which he maintained for the rest of the race. Lancaster and Hill, once again, completed the top three, while King could only manage to recover to seventh, which was not enough to take the points lead from the American.
As such, with 164 points, Daly became the MRF Challenge champion. King was only five points adrift in second with Bacheta in third, on 102 points, nowhere near the leading duo.
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend: Nick Cassidy - a downright flawless weekend from the young Kiwi saw him clinch the TRS title for a second year straight. Sure, the trouble encountered by his main rivals helped, but, even when he was already champion, Cassidy proved he could’ve won without that, taking an impressive victory in the 35-lap season finale.
Next weekend: Round two of Formula Middle East is to take place at Yas Marina, while the European F3 Open Winter Series will kick off at Paul Ricard.