It was a tough weekend of racing for Cameron Das as he took part in the third round of the 2018 Castrol Toyota Racing Series (TRS) New Zealand at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Despite this, the American pulled on his experience to recover well and claim a top-eight finish in the final race of the weekend. A mechanical issue in the opening race, stopping him from accomplishing his trademark fast start, followed by contact in the second race summed up a tough third weekend in the five-round series. 17-year-old Das can be consoled by his clear pace during practice which saw him top the timesheets of the fourth session – once again proving his raw speed.
The third round of the TRS New Zealand took place at the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park – a challenging clockwise circuit with the short but fast lap providing exciting racing. Enjoying the circuit from the word go Das was immediately on pace and enjoying the track – setting the second quickest time in the opening session the 2016 F4 US Champion went one better and topped the fourth practice session in his Victory Motor Racing Toyota FT50.
Bringing everything he had learnt in to qualifying, the up and coming racer qualified in tenth position to start the first race of the weekend but was left feeling as though something was missing from the overall performance in the changing conditions. Disaster then struck at the start of the race when a clutch failure sadly saw him to fall down the grid. Full of determination, Das refused to let it define his race; working his way back up to 11th position in a solid recovery drive.
However his luck would take a further knock in race two when, while attempting an impressive overtaking move, a competitor turned in on him, sent him on to the grass and ultimately ended his race. Putting the disappointment of the previous races behind him, Das lined up at the back of the grid for the final race of the weekend and was able to manoeuvre his Victory Motor Racing car nicely to gain positions. Initially gaining well on the opening lap, Das kept up his pace and efforts to continue his strong progress throughout the course of the 25 lap-race right up until the end to show grit in his recovery drive up to eighth as the flag fell.
Das reflected on his weekend, “We were up to speed really quickly this weekend. In the new tire session of FP4, I was P1, so I was feeling fairly confident going to qualifying. Unfortunately, we didn’t adapt to the rapidly changing track conditions as we should have, and the results put the whole team at the back of the field. I knew that on used tires the pace would come back to us somewhat, but it’s a tough track to pass on so the start was crucial.
“Unfortunately, I had a clutch failure at the start of race one so I had to work back up to 11th. In the second race, while attempting to overtake two cars, one of them turned into me on the straight when I was already pinned against the grass on the outside which resulted in the termination of both of our races. Race three was a bit more positive than the first two though. I started 13th, and through good positioning on lap one and a race-long battle to the final laps, I was able to recover to eighth position.
“Obviously 8th isn’t the result any of us want, but my head is up and I’m looking forward to Taupo where we know we can show our pace again and enjoy a strong weekend.”
The penultimate round of the 2018 TRS New Zealand gets underway next weekend (1st – 4th February) at Taupo.