Auckland racer Mitch Evans, 16, has won the 2011 New Zealand Grand Prix, becoming the youngest driver to ever win the prestigious title.
Today’s win is believed to put him in the history books as the youngest person to ever win an FIA-recognised Grand Prix.
Evans put in a dominant performance to control the 30-lap race from pole position through a safety car period. He held off a strong challenge from Whenuapai’s Nick Cassidy, who was alongside Evans on the grid, challenged for the lead after the safety car but eventually spun off the track and out of contention.
The New Zealand Grand Prix weekend delivered an action-packed finale to the international part of the 2011 Toyota Racing Series, with all three TRS races won by different drivers as Evans sealed the international title and extended his overall series lead.
On Saturday, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat drove a fast and clean race to win the Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy race over 20 laps.
Kvyat, 16, is the youngest ever winner of the trophy and the first Russian driver to have his name inscribed on the historic cup.
Mitch Evans pushed Kvyat hard but was happy enough to take second overall, the result netting him an unassailable points tally in the TRS International Series.
On Sunday morning, Ivan Lukashevich won the first TRS race of the day, starting from pole and then successfully defending his lead through a red flag restart after Jordan Skinner spun off at Dunlop corner. He became the sixth different winner in this year’s series.
Though Evans had said he was planning to conserve his car for the afternoon’s Grand Prix, he was on a charge and forced his way through to finish second, adding a further 67 points to his tally and putting him further ahead in the overall Toyota Racing Series standings.
Kvyat finished third after holding second in the early laps.
Evans, starting from pole position on the “dirty” side of the track, got a textbook start, controlling wheelspin to put the nose of his car ahead of the car of Cassidy and take the inside line into the right hand Toyota corner at the end of the start-finish straight. Over the ensuing laps Evans, Cassidy, Kvyat and Pye gradually stretched out a lead over the field, with Evans and Cassidy then putting clear air between their cars and that of Kvyat.
The Grand Prix was incident-free until lap 14 when several cars tangled at the infield left hand corner, Earl Bamber receiving a bent rear wing and then tapping wheels with Mario Farnbacher on the exit of the corner; Alex Lynn of Australia emerging from the melee but stopping halfway down the back straight and Alistair Wootten losing the nose cone and front wing off his car.
This brought the safety car out and bunched the field up, giving Nick Cassidy a chance to attack Evans as the field roared down the front straight.
Evans fought him off, and then set about re-establishing his lead. Cassidy stayed in touch until he spun on lap 16 at the exit of Dunlop corner, sliding sideways down the infield to a halt on the grass. He rejoined in eighth place but could not improve on that over the later laps of the race.
Cassidy’s misfortune promoted Daniil Kvyat to second and Australia’s Scott Pye to third overall. Neither driver could close in on the flying Evans in the laps remaining.
Evans crossed the line the winner by 3.229 seconds, Kvyat second overall and 2.653 seconds clear of third-places Scott Pye.
Though he had already sealed the TRS International Trophy title with second in Saturday’s Dan Higgins Memorial trophy race, the Grand Prix win pushed Evans further ahead in the trophy standings and extended his lead in the Toyota Racing Series. He now has 838 points with one round remaining; Scott Pye has come through to hold second in the points race on 628; third on points is Nick Cassidy on 142. The two Russian drivers are next: Daniil Kvyat on 600 and Ivan Lukashevich on 531.
The final round of the 2011 Toyota Racing Series will be held at Taupo on March 11-13.
Source: Toyota Racing Series Media