International racing series stars align

International drivers have moved to the front in test sessions at Timaru for this weekend's Toyota Racing Series (TRS).

Aucklander Nick Cassidy had dominated in the rain on Thursday and began yesterday's test sessions in similar form.

But British gamer-turned-racer Jann Mardenborough set pitlane abuzz when he went fastest in the second session, becoming the first driver to go under the existing race lap record in the process.

In warm sunny conditions, Mardenborough put in a best lap of 57.880, well inside the 2010 race lap record of Mitch Evans, who lapped at a best of 57.97sec on the way to winning that year's championship.

Lap records are only able to be set in officially observed races, but the young rookie racer's speed is doubly impressive given that he has only been racing for two years and is in his debut single-seater championship.

Mardenborough came into motor racing from the online gaming world when he won a Nissan and Sony backed Gran Turismo racing competition, beating 90,000 others to the title.

He has been consistently the fastest of the rookies in this year's championship.

But in the incident-packed third session, Mardenborough's speed was not enough to stay ahead of TRS 2012 graduate and 2013 championship prospect Lucas Auer, who pushed through to take fastest time of the day, setting a 57.565 on the 2.4 kilometre circuit.

Second fastest was defending champion Cassidy by .002 seconds.

Netherlands racer Steijn Schothorst and British racer Alex Lynn also went under the existing lap record, prompting speculation that the record will tumble when racing commences tomorrow.

Damon Leitch was among the racers who crashed out of this session, damaging his car too heavily to return to the track today.

The session was brought to an early close when Spike Goddard hit Nicholas Latifi.

The Goddard car was damaged more extensively than Latifi's, but both are expected to return in time for qualifying tomorrow morning.

As TRS enters its ninth season, organisers say the championship has propelled many local and overseas drivers into single-seater careers in the past eight years, but the series has not yet been won by an international driver.

The Timaru Herald