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Tiffany Chittenden, the first woman to contest the Toyota Finance 86 Championship comes to the sports car series with a wide range of experience.
The 33 year old started in go karts as a 12 year old and has represented both Great Britain and New Zealand at the World Karting Championships.
But until now she has never done a whole season of motor racing. “It’s a great opportunity with the Lighting Plus team,” said Chittenden. “It’ll be a steep learning curve, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Chittenden came to New Zealand early last year with her partner Mathew Hamilton, initially for a holiday, but liked it and decided to stay on.
The pair had met at the World Kart Championships several years ago, where Hamilton was representing New Zealand and Chittenden was racing for Great Britain.
Now Christchurch based, Chittenden sees her greatest achievement in the sport so far as winning the British 125cc DD2 Kart Championship in 2007 and going on to represent her country.
After arriving here she competed in the125 cc Rotax Challenge Championship and finished runner-up over the six rounds.
“I forfeited my European license, so I could race for New Zealand at the World Champs in Spain last November,” she explained.
Despite finishing the top Kiwi and placing sixth, Tiffany was disappointed with the result. “We were lying third, but it rained for the last race and I didn’t do quite so well.”
And while she knows her way around several of New Zealand’s kart tracks she has only had brief test sessions in the Toyota 86 coupe at Ruapuna and Hampton Downs motor racing circuits.
“I’ve got to get used to the car and the tracks, so I know a lot of the competition have more experience of both than I do.”
“Hopefully I can improve as the series goes on, get some podiums and get properly familiar with everything by the time we get to Ruapuna for round three.”
Chittenden’s brief for-rays into motor racing in Britain included a one off invitation drive in the celebrity car of the Porsche Carrera Cup in 2009, which resulted in a couple of drives for an Aston Martin team in the GT4 series where she had a first and second place in 2011.
But motor racing’s age old dilemma of needing good financial backing to contest a full season means Chittenden is about to start her first tilt at a full series.
“The 86 is a cool car with lots of grip,” said Chittenden as a result of her couple of test drives.
The championship, now in its third season, starts at Pukekohe from November 6 to 8 as a support race for the Australian V8 Supercars. Then there is a round at Hampton Downs on November 28 and 29.
The series resumes at Ruapuna, Christchurch on January 15 to 17 and Teretonga, Invercargill on January 22 – 24. The remaining rounds are at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild on February 12 to 14 and then at Taupo on March 26 – 27.
The Ruapuna, Teretonga and Manfeild rounds are part of the Toyota Racing Series for single seater cars, which attracts a large number of up and coming northern hemisphere drivers keen to race in their off-season.