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EVANS TAKES FIRST MAJOR TROPHY OF GRAND PRIX WEEKEND
- Van Asseldonk puts in determined drive to strong second overall
- Cassidy takes third with eye on championship title
Mitch Evans has started Grand Prix weekend in strong form with a runaway win in the Dan Higgins Trophy race at Manfeild near Palmerston North.
Race-fit and confident, Evans showed the benefit of his year of northern hemisphere racing as he swept to a convincing victory and set himself up nicely for Sunday’s New Zealand Grand Prix.
Evans, reigning New Zealand Grand Prix and TRS champion, spent last year racing GP3 in Europe with support from Formula One star Mark Webber. He won races there and for a time led the series, which races at F1 meetings. He will start on pole for the Grand Prix, the final race in the international Toyota Racing Series alongside series leader Nick Cassidy.
Starting today as he means to continue, Evans got a perfect start from pole and led for the entire race, stretching his advantage out to almost six seconds by race end. He also posted fastest lap of the race, a 1:03.847 with an average speed of 170.846 km/h.
Series leader Nick Cassidy, alongside Evans for the start, found himself battling Hannes van Asseldonk as the field surged into the first corner. When van Asseldonk took the outside line in the corner and went through side by side with Cassidy, he got the nose of his car ahead going into the short infield straight. Cassidy found himself off-line for the right hand corner at the esses and forced to give racing room to the Dutch driver.
“The inside line was blocked so I went round the outside and Nick gave me room – he had to,” van Asseldonk said.
From that point, van Asseldonk was secure in second place, though he found himself unable to make an impression on Evans’ lead.
“The car was good, I was very happy with our speed, but Mitch Evans had too much lead to attack,” he said afterward.
Manfeild’s track surface, he added, required greater precision as the race weekend progressed.
“The surface becomes very grippy as more rubber is laid down, which is good for cornering, but you must not slide the car then because it scrubs off a lot of speed.”
Evans agreed and said after the first race that his win did not necessarily guarantee a win in the 35-lap Grand Prix.
“The track conditions won’t be the same. The track even changed between qualifying and the race today.”
Nick Cassidy fought back mid-race and reduced the gap but was happy in the closing laps to maintain third, his eye firmly on the championship title.
Cassidy says if he is able to lock away the championship in the first Sunday race, he is looking forward to making a strong push for the Grand Prix title.
Sunday race action at Manfeild starts with race 2 at 10:57 am over 12 laps before the 57th New Zealand Grand Prix gets under way at 2:51 pm NZDST. TV3 will screen coverage of the event tomorrow afternoon.