The first round of the 2014 Toyota Racing Series New Zealand began with three days testing at the most southern permanent race circuit in the world, Teretonga Park, Invercargill. The conditions were difficult with high winds and rain, but Matteo was finding a good rhythm and pace in a car and on a circuit, both new to him.
The sun emerged on Saturday for the two qualifying sessions and race one. In the largest field he’s raced in to date with twenty three drivers, Matteo qualified his Giles Motorsport car a very respectable ninth and tenth for races one and three respectively, despite the interruption of red flags. Race two would be a reverse grid race to be determined by the finishing positions in race one.
On a dry track Matteo lost positions off the grid at the start of Race one, dropping back to fifteenth, but immediately recovered one position in Teretonga’s long fast first corner. The race was interrupted by a number of yellow flags and safety cars which limited the opportunity for passing. Despite this Matteo recovered well moving up the field to finish ninth. Fellow team mates Martin Rump, Jann Mardenborough, Matt Rao and Ryan Tvetter finished 2nd, 6th, 15th and 19th respectively.
Sunday greeted the TRS field with heavy rain and high winds. Matteo started race two from ninth position, with the top eight finishers of race one reversed on the grid. The slippery conditions caught out a number of drivers which resulted in few racing laps due to safety cars. The race was largely uneventful for Matteo, losing two positions towards the end to finish eleventh. His Giles Motorsport team mates Mardenborough and Rump finished second and third respectively, and Tvetter, Alif Hamdan and Rao tenth, eighteenth and twentieth.
By the afternoon the rain clouds had cleared, allowing for dry conditions in Race three. For the final race of the weekend Matteo started in tenth and made some good attacking moves again into the first corner. The twenty lap Spirit of the Nation feature race, provided an exciting, uninterrupted twelve laps before a number of simultaneous incidents brought out the safety car. The race restarted with six laps to run, Matteo sitting in eleventh place, but a further safety car period followed immediately with an incident after the esses. Unfortunately as the race restarted with two laps remaining, Matteo was caught out by the concertina effect of the pack at the last corner, touching the car in front and losing his front wing. He continued but underestimated the effect on the car on turn in to the first corner, where he slid off onto the grass ending his race.
Allinsport’s Peter Collins said “The level of competitiveness and the intensity of racing in TRS this year is going to provide excellent experience for Matteo in the coming weeks. This first round of TRS has already provided valuable further experience and has definitely been beneficial.”
Round two of the 2014 Toyota Racing Series will be held next weekend, 18 and 19 January 2014 at the Timaru circuit on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.