TRS: First solid Round for Chelsea Herbert
It was her very first formula racing weekend and Chelsea Herbert learned a lot: she completed every race at Highlands Motorsport Park in the opening round of the 2020 Toyota Racing Series.
"My target is to learn and develop my race craft. I’ve never raced a single seater before, so it will all be learning." - she told us a couple of days before her debut.
Whatever the results, it was a massive learning opportunity for young New-Zealander Chelsea Herbert, who sees the hyper-competitive Toyota Racing Series as a chance to further establish herself as an international racing driver: the first round in Cromwell this weekend was her very first experience of a formula car in a racing environment.
The first race ended with a post-race penalty that demoted on-track race winner Caio Collet to 7th position. Collet was caught practising a race start in the warm-up lap and was handed a five seconds penalty after the race.
More drama happened on lap 10, as Henning Enqvist lost his car and spun off into the tyre barrier. The Safety Car was called out and paved the way for just one more lap of racing before the finish line. The restart was a clean one: Collet kept his calm and defended his first place against a hard fighting Liam Lawson until the chequered flag. Reigning champion Lawson inherited the win afterwards, with Igor Fraga and Grégoire Saucy completing the podium.
Chelsea Herbert had some good battles with the more experienced formula drivers and did a very good job for her first single-seater outing. Herbert finished the first race at Highlands Motorsport Park in P17, bringing home a solid result and, most importantly, improved her lap times by several seconds compared to her practice runs.
The second race started with a reversed grid, which elevated Japanese Red Bull-backed driver Yuki Tsunoda to race victory, while Oliver Rasmussen and Lirim Zendeli followed behind.
Collet continued his bad luck streak, as he touched the barrier on the second lap and damaged his rear suspension.
The race settled down in the second half and not much happend as Tsunoda drove away to build a solid gap. Lawson fought hard again in the mid-field, managing to overtake Igor Fraga for position five in the race.
Chelsea Herbert drove again a solid race and crossed the line in P17, as the lady from Auckland stayed ahead of Swede Henning Enqvist.
The third and last race of the weekend saw Lawson starting on pole after an impressive qualifying effort. Fellow front-row starter Collet took the way of the pit lane after the warm-up lap with more technical issues and retired: it certainly wasn't the weekend that the young Brazilian driver wanted for his TRS debut.
The start was followed by some chaotic action, as several cars took to the grass at the first chicane, but exciting battles emerged between Spanish F4 champion Franco Colapinto, Igor Fraga and Yuki Tsunoda, who animated the first half of the race. The battle for sixth place also came alive, with Czech Petr Ptacek putting pressure on Ido Cohen.
It wasn´t either the race for Jackson Walls, as he stopped his car on the track after rejoining from a pit-lane visit, which brought out the Safety Car. Lawson easily defended at the restart from Franco Colapinto and took his second victory of the weekend in front of his home crowd, leading Colapinto and Fraga.
The Kiwi now leads the championship with 82 points, ahead of Fraga with 67 points and Tsunoda with 66 points.
Chelsea Herbert unfortunately started the last race of the weekend from the pitlane following a penalty, but drove with consistent pace and battled on track with Rui Andrade, ultimately recovering to P15. It was again another promising performance for the 21-year old lady, whose best lap of 1:31.607 in the second race was just 2.2 seconds from the fastest lap of the race, signed by FIA F3 racer Lawson.
Her first ever single-seater race weekend was all about learning and improving in anticipation of the next championship rounds: the next TRS event will be at Teretonga Park in just one week time, on February 24-26.
In Chelsea's words:
"I just need to work on my racecraft. All learning is good learning."
Ph credits: Bruce Jenkins Photography for Castrol Toyota Gazoo Racing Series