Shahaan Engineer - Toyota Racing SeriesShahaan Engineer enjoyed his strongest and most competitive event of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series so far at Hampton Downs in New Zealand over the weekend, 4th/5th February, with a best result of seventh place in the second of three races.

Making huge steps forward in terms of his overall pace and skill, the 16-year-old – who has been consistently capable of making great starts throughout the TRS campaign – raced superbly across the weekend and produced some great overtaking moves, battling wheel-to-wheel with top talent.

While race two delivered the best result of the weekend, seventh from 13th on the grid, the headline encounter which rounded off the event, the 20-lap New Zealand Motor Cup, should have provided another top 10 finish – ninth to be precise.

However, an ongoing battle between two drivers just in front of Shahaan, at the exit of turn nine on the final lap, resulted in the pair crashing and forced the young ETEC Motorsport driver to take avoiding action through the gravel.

“I came out of the corner and there they were, scattered across the track blocking the entire exit of the corner”, explained Shahaan, “I had nowhere to go except the gravel trap because my reaction was to turn right and avoid the mess. By the time I got back on the track I had lost several places and finished 13th.”

The end result of race three was disappointing for the car racing rookie after a great drive through from 13th on the grid into ninth. With the exit of turn nine of the 2.8-kilometre track being blind though, Shahaan’s lightning reactions in avoiding a serious collision impressed his ETEC team.

Race one on Saturday afternoon was quite a sedate affair with Shahaan, and the majority of the rest of the top 15, all finishing where they started – in his case, 13th position. His race two result of seventh place was the best of the weekend of course but the tenacity and ability displayed in race three was a highlight.

ETEC race engineer Michael Olsen commented: “This has been the best week so far for Shahaan in the TRS, there has been a huge improvement in his technique, pace, consistency and mindset. Although we’re happy with the seventh place in race two, and we know the race three incident did lose Shahaan several positions, what’s more important is the learning and progress and the way he conducted himself throughout the weekend.

“There were two Safety Car periods, lots of blocking and overtaking, and he then did a great job of avoiding a high-speed collision in front of him. Shahaan showed great presence of mind to calmly get back on the circuit out of the gravel, against the odds, and still take home some respectable points.”

Of the 12 races contested so far in the Toyota Racing Series, the soon-to-be UK domiciled driver has posted 11 finishes with improving pace and consistency against a highly rated competition-base featuring racers with experience of Formula 3, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5. Furthermore, the rookie hasn’t been involved in a single red flag incident in any of the 24 practice sessions so far.

The grand finale of the five-event championship, rounds 13, 14 and 15, will take place next weekend, 11th/12th February, at Manfeild Autocourse near Feilding, New Zealand.

Photo by Toyota Racing Series.