American teenager Cameron Das has surprised his rivals by setting the fastest time in practice for this weekend’s fourth round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
Das set his time in the dying seconds of the final practice session as all the leading contenders bolted on new or near new tyres in an effort to get some psychological advantage before Saturday morning’s qualifying.
It is the 17 year old from Baltimore’s first visit to the track.
“I like it,” said Das. “There’s a good variety of corners – some low speed technical stuff and some high speed bends. I think it will be good to race on with some over taking opportunities.”
Das said he had made only minor changes to the car’s set-up, which his team, Victory Motor Racing, had suggested he start practicing with.
“There was only a 2 to 3 laps window when the tyres were at their best to get a good lap,” said Das. “Then they went off by about half a second lap.”
Das hasn’t had the easiest initiation into the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, being involved in an incident with French teenager Charles Milesi at Hampton Downs last weekend.
He currently lies 12th on the points table, nine points behind Ryan Yardley of Christchurch.
Second fastest was Russian Robert Shwartzman, followed by Das’ team-mate, Brendon Leitch from Invercargill.
Championship leader Marcus Armstrong was fourth fastest, but like Shwartzman and Richard Verschoor, the double winner at Hampton Downs last weekend, they only had new front tyres for the last minutes of practice.
If track conditions allow they should go faster into the two qualifying sessions for tomorrow afternoon’s preliminary race and Sunday’s main event for the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy.
Armstrong has a 41 points lead over Shwartzman, with Verschoor another 29 points further back. There are three races this weekend and another three at the series finale, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild next weekend.
Fastest practice times from all 3 sessions
1, C Das (USA) 83.844 seconds;
2, R Shwartzman (Russia) 83.925;
3, B Leitch (Invercargill) 83.947;
4, M Armstrong (Christchurch) 83.951;
5, C Milesi (France) 84.257;
6, R Verschoor (Netherlands) 84.417;
7, T Cockerton (Pukekohe) 84.478;
8, C Novalak (England) 84.540;
9, J-M Correa (USA) 84.586;
10, J Pull (England) 84.966.