Motorsport: Getting down to business

By Eric Thompson

The TRS drivers are fired up after their first workout

Puerto Rican Felix Serralles leads the Toyota Racing Series field after three good results - including a win - at Teretonga.  Photo / Supplied
Puerto Rican Felix Serralles leads the Toyota Racing Series field after three good results - including a win - at Teretonga. Photo / Supplied

The cobwebs will have well and truly been blown out as the Toyota Racing Series teams settle into the business of qualifying today for round two of the championship.

The opening round at the most southern race circuit in the world, Teretonga in Invercargill, is always a bit of a lottery and last weekend was no exception.

Many of the 18 drivers contesting the series hadn't seen the circuit before, but Puerto Rican driver Felix Serralles raced in the series last year and put his knowledge of the New Zealand circuit to good use.

The result is that he goes to Timaru for round two at the head of the field after a fourth, a second and a win at Teretonga put him five points clear of second-placed Austrian Lucas Auer.

The weekend produced three different winners from the three races, and those three drivers - Pipo Derani, Auer and Serralles - are third, second and first respectively.

Serralles could have easily been watching the Spirit of a Nation feature race from the pits after the opening laps.

Serralles and Brit Alex Lynn were locked in a tussle for front place through the first lap, and Serralles was defending his lead when cars spun in the pack behind them.

The incident brought out the safety car, bunching the field up, and when the safety car pulled in, Serralles and Lynn were side-by-side down the main straight, with the Puerto Rican on the outside.

A gust of wind nudged the two cars together and it was Lynn who left the track, crashing heavily. The car was flung high in the air and much of its left-side suspension was ripped off.

Lynn extracted himself from the car shaken but unhurt.

On the restart, Serralles jumped into the lead and accelerated away to take the win.

"It was a bit of a crazy contact. It's racing, but it's quite dangerous as well," he said later. "I don't think I did anything wrong. I was going straight and Alex touched me, but in the end I was able to continue in first place and win the race.

"So overall a good weekend with lots of points and I'd like to thank Giles Motorsport for all the hard work and the great car they gave me.

"I now have to take the same good form to the next round in Timaru and hope I get even more good points."

Defending TRS champion New Zealander Nick Cassidy had an up and down weekend with a second, fourth and an eighth to leave Teretonga fourth in the series. Cassidy's team went the wrong way with the set-up for the second qualifying session that set the grid for the feature race, and he started 16th on the grid.

But he did a sterling job of making his way through the pack, and was grudgingly happy with his results.

He's with a new team, M2 Competition, this year, and they are feeling their way and now have heaps of data heading to Timaru.

"I was a bit surprised as I didn't think I would get as many cars in the feature race," said Cassidy. "I thought I had to do something special and thought we may as well change a few things with the car since I was starting at the back.

"We had a good run, and learnt a few more things for next weekend. I pushed some laps and then played it a bit save but still managed to set a fastest lap.

"The guys who were fast at Teretonga will be fast at Timaru. The only difference is that the gap between the fast guys and the others will be bigger.

"At Teretonga the gap between first and 14th was about a second, whereas Timaru is a lot more technical so lap times will be much more different.

"It may play into our hands, but the car needs a different setup so we've got a bit work to do."

The Toyota Racing Series has propelled many local and overseas drivers into single-seater careers in the past eight years, but the series has yet to be won by a non-New Zealand driver.

- NZ Herald

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