Auckland racing driver Nick Cassidy is having another tilt at winning the Toyota Racing Series.

Last year, the then-16-year-old finished second to Mitch Evans in the championship and won the Rookie of the Year title.

This year's series is another top-calibre drawcard, with 15 international drivers lining up at all five back-to-back meetings. They're here to prove they can cut it with the best and the four Kiwis in the field - Cassidy, Damon Leitch, Jono Lester and Chris Vlock - are waving the flag proudly.

Cassidy leads the title hunt after three rounds with Leitch in second.


Not bad when you think the New Zealand drivers are out-numbered nearly four-to-one.

Most of the drivers are teenagers, some as young as 16. Driven went in search of series leader Cassidy's mum, Paulette Cassidy, for a chat.

Paulette, how did Nick get involved in motor racing?

His dad, [Peter], raced speedway for a wee while and one day we were going past a karting track. Someone recognised Peter and said he should bring Nick down for a drive. [Nick] jumped in the kart and straightaway asked when he was going to get one.

What did you think when Nick got keen on the idea of karting?

Oh, before that he had his own little go-kart - he used to drive down the driveway and take all the old ladies in the neighbourhood for rides. At 9 months old, when he saw a car he went "broom, broom". I knew then it was going to happen.

Where you ever worried watching your young fella racing karts?

Not really. Karting is safe and Nick has always had a great sense of self-preservation. I have great trust in his abilities.

When he started moving up into open-wheelers and now the TRS, was there anything going through your mind?

He better win (laughing). I don't have any problem with him racing from a safety aspect. Right from the start we have always made sure he's had the best safety gear.

You must be quite proud?

I'm definitely very proud. He handles himself well on and off the track and that's what we're proud of.

Nick is a graduate of the Elite Motorsport Academy in Dunedin. Do you think that's helped him at all?

It's great that there is that available to them.

If Nick does get signed up to a full-time gig overseas, how are you going to feel about your boy leaving New Zealand?

It doesn't matter where he goes or what he does, he'll always be my baby. It's his dream to race overseas and I really hope he can fulfil his dream.

There are some racers in the world who think they're God's gift. Did you and Peter make sure Nick had a good grounding?

He's had a bit of a different journey to others as he's had to go out and seek sponsorship from an early age. There were no outside resources, it was him and his dad doing all the preparation on the karts and everything was on a budget and what he could raise in sponsorship. He was told from a young age that everything else had to be kept up, like his schoolwork.

Has Nick's drive to succeed in racing come from you and Peter?

No. It's all come from him. He used to take himself off to bed at 6pm if he had a race meeting the next day. He's made all his own decision since he was 13 as to how he goes about things. He once had a sponsor's meeting that Peter couldn't make so he went on his own. The sponsors were absolutely blown away by him.