Jono LesterJono Lester has completed his first season in the Toyota Racing Series with a sixth place finish in the 57th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild over the weekend.

Leading into the final round of the 2012 championship, Lester held the Rookie points lead by a slender margin of 18 points from Austrian driver Lucas Auer and Brazilian Bruno Bonifacio.

Hopes to secure the prize were dashed in the opening race on Saturday afternoon, when a broken bolt in the rear wishbone geometry forced the 22-year old to retire from the race at the half way point.

Starting from the rear of the 20-car grid for race two, Lester capitalised on a well balanced race car to improve to eleventh position at the finish.

The 35-lap New Zealand Grand Prix started well for Lester. From a starting position of 12th, he passed a number of cars to sit in eighth after two early safety car periods.

Lester applied pressure to the rear of Frenchman Nathanael Berthon’s car for the next 20 laps, before tyre degradation set in and his lap speed dropped away a little in the closing stages.

Crossing the line in sixth place, Lester was happy with the event on the whole, despite the DNF (did not finish) in the opening race.

“We’ve been pretty competitive speed-wise this weekend,” Lester explained.

“Qualifying was again a bit of a let down, but the breakage in the opening race was just one of those unfortunate fatigue scenarios and there was nothing anyone could have done to pre-empt it.

“As for Sunday, we had a great race car. It gave me more confidence and I think we showed that with our results from lowly starting positions.”

Lester acknowledged there were positives and negatives to take from his first single seater racing championship, and that he fully intended to return for the second of a two year programme in 2013.

“This championship has frustrated me at times, but that’s a product of its intense competition and driving talent. It’s been incredible in that regard.

“Coming back for another crack at it is a given, so we will begin our debrief immediately and get things underway.

“A huge thanks to the New Zealand Motorsport Trust and all of my loyal partners for allowing me this opportunity. I believe we’re all excited at what lies ahead for next season!”

Lester was supported in his campaign by the New Zealand Motorsport Trust & The Lion Foundation, and partnered with Counties Toyota, TradeZone Industrial, Ports of Auckland, Vortex Racewear, Hornet Nutrition, Opti-Flex, Chemz, Webdesign, iSign it, R Redpath Limited, Sony Electronics, Tissot, Loaded Sports Drink and Zero Water.

Photo by Bruce Jenkins/TRS