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Auckland racer Nick Cassidy has sped to the front of the Toyota Racing Series with back to back wins in the second round, held this weekend in Timaru.
Cassidy swamped pole man Hannes van Asseldonk in Saturday's 12 lap race to win convincingly, then backed that victory with a well judged win on a drying track in today's 20-lap feature race for the Timaru Herald Trophy. He then finished the day with a canny third overall in the third race to maintain a championship points lead over the inner of that race, Damon Leitch.
Though van Asseldonk and Brazilian rookie Bruno Bonifacio had the front row of the grid for the feature, Cassidy and Southland's Damon Leitch were well placed off the second row.
Bonifacio took and held the lead briefly from the start before being overtaken by van Asseldonk, who was pushing his car hard in the opening laps.
Cassidy got the better of Leitch to close in on Bonifacio and van Asseldonk and soon followed van Asseldonk past Bonifacio.
Josh Hill had started off the third row, but went off and was forced into a race-long fight to regain his start position. Chris Vlok went off at the sweeper and lost his front wing.
Three laps later van Asseldonk went off under unrelenting pressure from Cassidy, who then set about putting distance between himself and the Dutch driver.
The race became a test of driving skills as the drivers sought to preserve their soft compound wet tyres on an increasingly dry track. Leader Cassidy was driving off the fast line and in the remaining wet patches of the track to preserve his tyres.
French driver Nathanael Berthon was the only one to have opted for slick tyres at the race start, but found himself slipping behind the field even when the track dried out. Cassidy lapped both Berthon and Sheban Siddiqi in a finely judged and strategic drive to the chequered flag. Though to second behind him came Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, scoring his best result of the series to date and stepping up to third in the championship points standings.
After two rounds of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series, despite being outnumbered 3:1 by the internationals, New Zealand drivers fill the first and second places in the championship.
Damon Leitch led the series coming into this round and capped a second in Saturday's race with third overall in today's feature race to be second on points. His win in the third race of the day brought him back into contention for the championship, just eleven points behind leader Cassidy’s total of 383. Third for the series on 295 is Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, who was pushed down the order by the reverse grid format of the third race but put in a clean and consistent drive to finish 11th and continue accumulating valuable points.
The Timaru Herald Trophy, raced over 20 laps, has been won in TRS by Brent Collins (2005); Ben Harford (2006); Daniel Gaunt (2007); Earl Bamber (2008) Scott Pye (2009) Earl Bamber (2010) and Mitch Evans (2011). Nick Cassidy now gets to add his name to a trophy that was first awarded in 1967.
The 2012 Toyota Racing Series now heads to the resort town of Taupo in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island for the third round of the series next weekend.