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Southland driver Damon Leitch heads for the second round of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series with a narrow championship lead and hoping for improved weather after the hail and sleet of the first round at Invercargill.
It is the first time a Southland racer had led the series, and though international drivers outnumber locals 3:1, Leitch’s closest rival going into round two is another Kiwi, Nick Cassidy.
Leitch has 181 points ahead of Cassidy on 173.
Dutch driver Hannes van Asseldonk won the first major trophy of the series last weekend at Invercargill and is third on points for the championship title with 150 points. He won two of the three races for TRS at Invercargill, taking both the Spirit of a Nation Cup and the rain-affected third race despite spinning off the track at high speed as that race was red-flagged.
Just 31 points separate the top three in the championship with 75 points available from each race win. British driver Josh Hill, who won the first race of the 2012 series, is also well within striking distance, as is Felix Serralles of Puerto Rico. The top rookie in the series, Bruno Bonifacio, is sixth on points.
The second round of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series gets under way on Saturday at Levels International Raceway with qualifying and the first race of the weekend. The drivers must make the most of testing time and qualifying at the coming Timaru round in order to have good grid positions and track speed for each race.
Category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the extreme weather conditions at Timaru challenged each of the drivers and gave them useful experience in the cars. With so many of the drivers new to the series, the chance to get used to how the cars handle in wet and windy conditions was “invaluable”.
“Invercargill proved the value of our team structure and the massive experience and knowledge gathered by the teams over the past seven seasons. For the drivers this would have been very reassuring as they went out into races that were held in the most variable conditions possible,” he said.
Teams and drivers worked well together throughout that round, and Mr Thomlinson said the series will be hoping for settled weather as the second round gets under way this weekend.
The feature race of the second round is the Timaru Herald Trophy, raced over 20 laps on Sunday.