Cameron Das has started the 2018 season in New Zealand as he takes part in the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) five-round event. The young and talented American racer was back out in competitive action this weekend for the first time since the conclusion of his 2017 campaign in October. Racing for Victory Motor Racing in the five-round series Das got the first taste of his 1.8-litre Toyota FT50 car as he participated in three races this weekend at Ruapuna Park, Christchurch.
Relishing the prospect of another new challenge, Das embraced the weekend from the off and went in to the five practice sessions with the intention of getting to grips with the 3.33km, anti-clockwise Ruapuna Park circuit. However, it was a challenging task facing the 2016 F4 US Champion, and the rest of the field, with wet conditions to contend with. Das took the changeable conditions in his stride and on Friday afternoon, in the final practice of the weekend, he posted the second fastest lap time as he looked forward to qualifying and the first of three races on Saturday.
The first qualifying of the weekend threw a further challenge in the mix as the tricky decision between slick and wet tires loomed over the field. As it was, this dilemma would also roll in to the second qualifying session later in the day adding an extra dimension to the already tense shoot-out. Das maintained his focus well to classify nicely in ninth as the flag fell on both sessions.
The opening race of the weekend saw Das launch off the line for the first time in earnest in his Toyota FT50 Victory Motor Racing prepared car; initially gaining well the American enjoyed a solid debut race of the season crossing the line in 11th place. However bad luck would hit following an unfortunate engine issue which forced him to retire prematurely during the second race of the weekend.
Picking himself back up from the disappointment, and starting from an improved eighth on the grid, Das was keen to finish the weekend with a strong result. Fighting well throughout the race the rising American star gained a position to seventh where he would eventually cross the line – showing his strong potential for the remainder of the upcoming 2018 series.
Das said of his first taste of the TRS New Zealand event, “This was certainly one of the more challenging race weekends I’ve had in a while. Even though we had three days of testing, all were wet and one was wet enough to cancel the session. Our first time on slicks was during qualifying in damp conditions which presented a great challenge for all the drivers. For the races, the sky finally cleared up, and we had our first proper dry tire runs.
“In each of the races, I managed to move forward on the opening laps despite having mechanical issues the first two races. In the second race, the engine had a loss of power which forced me to retire. While I’m certain we had the potential to fight at the front this weekend, I feel as though I gained a plethora of experience that rarely occurs in one race weekend.
“I’d like to thank Victory Racing for working so diligently throughout the weekend, and to my sponsors, Autobahn Indoor Speedway, Meguiars Polish, and the Bertil Roos Racing School for granting this incredible opportunity.”
With little time to spare, Das will be racing at Teretonga Park, Invercargill next weekend as the second round of the Series takes place from the 18th – 21st January 2018.