Cassidy wins NZGP title and Toyota series again
Scenes off the track descended into farce as Kiwi Nick Cassidy claimed a clinical and historic New Zealand Grand Prix win at Manfeild.
Cassidy, 18, became the youngest driver to win two New Zealand Grand Prix titles, winning the 57th last year and now the 58th edition of the famous race yesterday.
A visibly delighted Cassidy led from the first corner, overtaking British team-mate and pole-sitter Alex Lynn with a sublime start.
Cassidy also added a second successive Toyota Racing Series championship to his growing CV with a controversial second-place finish in the opening race of the day.
Cassidy's biggest rival, Austrian Lucas Auer, took the race provisionally with a swashbuckling drive as he worked his way through the reverse-grid field with the youthful enthusiasm of an 18-year-old.
With Cassidy back in fifth, Auer thought he had done enough to close the gap in the championship to just 19 points.
Race stewards thought differently.
More than an hour after the Austrian had claimed the chequered flag, he was penalised for running flying Dutchman Steijn Schothorst off the track.
The over zealous penalty put the Austrian all the way back to 14th and handed Cassidy the championship on a silver platter as penalties to Lynn, Felix Serralles and Pipo Derani enabled Cassidy to leapfrog all the way to second position.
It was a decision that had the Austrian fuming.
"To be honest, I tried so f...... hard in these five weeks and to have it end like that, what can I say - of course I'm disappointed.
"If this had been Europe right now I don't know what I would do.
"I mean you saw that, you can judge.
"They said it was bad sportsmanship but come on, it just was racing."
Auer's weekend had already been tinged with annoyance as electrical difficulties in qualifying forced him to start the Grand Prix in 13th.
Such was the pace of Auer, whose uncle is former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger, that he managed to climb an astonishing eight places in the first two laps of the feature race, before his tyres went off and a stubborn Bruno Bonafacio blocked him out for 33 laps.
"I was already against the wall going into this weekend," Auer said, "but Toyota can't get their cars right and then they [race officials] just put the knife in when I was lying in the floor."
Auer said he would not come back to the Toyota Racing Series unless there was large commercial incentive in it for him and he described Manfeild as "another little Kiwi track with bumps all over it".
But Auer did save some praise for Cassidy, who he described as a smart guy and good driver who "managed very cleverly the points".
Cassidy won only one race in the 15-race series before the Grand Prix, but the boy from Auckland has become a model of consistency, finishing in the top four of all but two races in the 2013 championship.
For his part, Cassidy was delighted with his performance.
"You can take away the penalties from the other drivers and I still would have come out on top, so it was a great result for us."
Lynn finished behind his team-mate in second and Schothorst rounded out the podium in the Grand Prix, to cap off a strong weekend.
Legendary 71-year-old racer Kenny Smith finished his 47th New Zealand Grand Prix in 16th.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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