Friday, Jan 11 07:35pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Allure of action draws Lucas Auer to New Zealand

There were few driver confirmations more surprising than that of Lucas Auer for this year’s Toyota Racing Series.


The last time he raced in New Zealand was as teenager. Two seasons in 2012 and ’13 saw the then up-and-comer score a best of third overall in his second year.


So why a third season, and why so long between drinks? Especially after such success in the DTM and sports car racing elsewhere.


“I really like coming here,” Auer said of his return to New Zealand.


“It’s good to be back, it keeps me in shape over the winter and I’m really looking forward to starting.”


The drawcard; ultimately, non-stop action.


Unique to the Toyota Racing Series is it’s five-round calendar that sees very little in the way of rest for the drivers.


Testing for the opening round of the championship at Highlands Motorsport Park began on Wednesday with two practice sessions followed by another two sessions on Thursday. Technically, the weekend hasn’t even begun by then.


Official practice begins on Friday with three half hour long sessions. Saturday sees one qualifying and one race, the weekend completed with a further two races on Sunday. All that for five weekends straight.


“As a racing driver you need to race, you to do need laps, and this is what you can do here,” Auer said.


“You have five weeks in a row, every Saturday and Sunday there’s flat out qualifying and racing. You can make mistakes here and learn from it. You’ve got everything that you need here.”


Attractive too is the allure of FIA Super License points, which are needed to qualify in order to reach Formula 1.


The Toyota Racing Series offers up to seven points for the championship winner. However, with the advent of new rules it means points from only one championship can be taken per calendar year. But that hasn’t put Auer off, and if he wins it’ll safeguard him for future plans this year.


It makes a lot of sense for Auer who this year will contest Japan’s premier single seater series, SUPER FORMULA. Formerly backed by Mercedes, Auer is now under the wing of Red Bull and sports their iconic colours on his helmet.


With several seasons of tin top racing in recent years, getting the feel back of single seaters is a must, and what better way to do that than cutting some racing laps – hence, competing in the Toyota Racing Series.


“There’s a lot of air in my face. It feels good. It’s a bit like coming back home. I learned everything at the age of 16 in a formula car.


“I’m still adapting to getting back to a formula car. That’s also why I’m here. I’m sure over the next five weeks I will come back strong. It’s mega cool to be back in one of these.”


Highlands Motorsport Park is the only unfamiliar facility for Auer this year. He’s driven at every other track in the country across his previous two seasons, including Hampton Downs.


With guys like Brendon Leitch and Marcus Armstrong already well ahead on miles, Auer is at a slight disadvantage. However, he’s not fazed by that.


“It’s a very cool track,” Auer said of the circuit.


“It’s very high speed. It’s proper high speed, turn one and turn two. It’s a proper one where you need some… balls.


“I’m looking forward to racing here. There’s lots of opportunities to overtake and it’s a properly good track.


“I’m still searching for something to compare it to. Maybe like Hockenheim you can compare it, but still it has completely different characteristics. You have a bridge that you jump a bit, which is interesting.”