Aucklander Mitch Evans has made a dominant return to the Toyota Racing Series, qualifying on pole and winning the first of three races this weekend at the 2.53 km Hampton Downs circuit south of Auckland.
Evans, race-hardened by a successful season in Europe and fresh from a “boot camp” in Australia with Mark Webber, got a clean drive off pole position to lead Saturday’s 15-lap race from start to finish, crossing the line with a margin of 2.7 seconds over second-placed Hannes van Asseldonk of Holland.
“I didn’t get a perfect start, a bit of wheelspin off the line, but once we were through the first corner things settled down into a comfortable pace. I think we can go faster tomorrow.”
Current championship points leader Nick Cassidy had qualified second and started alongside Evans, but was shouldered aside by van Asseldonk who made a strong start from the second row and was the only driver to attempt to stay with the flying Evans.
Along with second place and a valuable top-up to his championship points, van Asseldonk had the satisfaction of setting a new race lap record for Hampton Downs of 1:00.919, well inside the existing mark of 1:01.846. Mitch Evans had broken the record two laps before, then saw van Asseldonk set the mark lower again in a spirited charge during the final two laps of the race.
Lucas Auer was fourth overall and first rookie across the line.
There are two more races for Toyota Racing Series today (Sunday), including the feature event, the 20-lap NZ Motor Cup. With the best average times in qualifying for the weekend, Evans has pole for that race.