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Gearing up for the future of NZ Motorsport

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TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand has an extensive domestic motorsport programme that targets not only the best up-and-coming Kiwi racers, but also the best young talent from overseas.

With its geographical location and a summer that coincides with the Northern Hemisphere winter, New Zealand has always been a popular place for racing drivers to race when there’s nothing happening at home.

2020 has of course been a very challenging year for motorsport everywhere in the world, but thankfully something like normal service is being resumed on the domestic motorsport scene. The international scene, however, remains clouded, with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still restricting travel and consequently motorsport at all levels and in most places.

BEST BARS TOYOTA 86 CHAMPIONSHIP FINALLY HAS ITS CHAMPION

After a long lay-off, Toyota’s domestic series for the TR86 finally concluded at Hampton Downs in September.

It was Peter Vodanovich who secured the 2019-2020 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship title – and with it the attention of some of the biggest motor racing teams in the Asia Pacific region.

One of the most consistent performers in the category for the past couple of years, Peter had a clear focus on the title from the first round at Pukekohe, and was relentless in his pursuit of race wins and podium finishes. His championship was well deserved and he took the keys to a brand-new Toyota 86 as the major part of his prize.

Hot on the heels of that finale, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand confirmed a later start for its 2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, and also introduced a two-round mini enduro series for November and December, with race weekends at Hampton Downs and Pukekohe. Each weekend featured two one-hour races and each car had to run two drivers.

RACING TALENT FLOCKS TO TEST DAY

To get the ball rolling for enduros and the 2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, the category held a huge test day at Hampton Downs. It turned out to be one of the biggest yet, attracting talent from motocross, karting and even drifting to try out the thoroughbred racer.

A total of 16 drivers tested on the day under the expert guidance of experienced drivers such as Daniel Gaunt, Tom Alexander and Taylor Cockerton. They were also able to discuss their own driving with engineers using data analysis. For many, this was their first glimpse of professional motorsport and they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Bea Vear was all smiles after her experience on the test day. “I’ve been driving in the Ssangyong Racing Series, and the Toyota 86 is just so different from what I’m used to. They are almost exact opposites. With the Toyota 86 you have to be very smooth as the car almost wants to turn in.

“Getting used to a close-ratio gearbox was my main challenge on the day, but I got on top of it and got better throughout the day. The guidance from Tom Alexander was hugely beneficial too, helping me work on areas I needed to improve on to be faster and more consistent. If I can get the funding, I’d love to do a season in a Toyota 86.”

MAJOR PRIZE FUND FOR 2021

At the end of the busy test day, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand took the opportunity to announce its prize fund package for the 2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship. And as part of an ongoing COVID-19 response, it confirmed its biggest-ever prize fund for the category and one of the biggest ever for any domestic race series in New Zealand.

THE WINNER OF THE 2021 CHAMPIONSHIP WILL RECEIVE A TEST DRIVE IN A TOYOTA FT-60 TRS RACER AND A $50,000 CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS A TRS CAMPAIGN, ALTERNATIVELY, THEY CAN TAKE A $25,000 CASH PRIZE

THE SECOND PLACE WINNER WILL SECURE A $15,000 TOYOTA GAZOO RACING NEW ZEALAND CREDIT OR $7,500 CASH

THE THIRD PLACE WINNER OVERALL WILL RECEIVE A $10,000 CREDIT
$5,000 CASH

Masters and rookies aren’t forgotten in the prize fund. The winners of those categories will secure up to $10,000 in TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand credits or $5,000 cash. With a number of the previous season’s runners returning and drivers like Christina Orr-West and Ronan Murphy – son of four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy – already confirmed, 2021 is looking very positive indeed for the category.

2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship Calendar

ROUND 1 22-24 January 2021 Hampton Downs Motorsport Park

ROUND 2 29-30 January 2021 Hampton Downs Motorsport Park

ROUND 3 12-14 February 2021 Circuit Chris Amon: Manfeild

ROUND 4 5-7 March 2021 Pukekohe Park raceway 

ROUND 5 26-28 March 2021 Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupō

MASSIVE BOOST FOR KIWI RACERS IS PERFECT COVID-19 COUNTER ATTACK

Toyota has also invested heavily in up-and-coming young New Zealand racing talent, as it continues to lead the charge in New Zealand to find our next champions, be they in Formula One like Denny Hulme, in IndyCar like Scott Dixon, in world endurance and Le Mans like Brendon Hartley, or in V8 Supercars like Scott McLaughlin. We have no shortage of world-class youngsters, but in the current climate they all need whatever financial support they can get.

To take the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic into account, Toyota recently contributed $500,000 to the Kiwi Driver Fund with the aim of providing a boost for up to 10 drivers to race in the 2021 TRS. Once again the world of motorsport will be focusing on it when the season begins in January.

A number of current Formula One drivers used the TRS as stepping stones in their careers and for most it’s a huge career boost. This funding is reserved for drivers with no previous full-season TRS championship experience.

Recipients must test Toyota’s FT50 chassis and then need to submit applications. The process has already been underway for a couple of months, with up-and-coming racers like Kaleb Ngatoa and karting sensation Matthew Payne enjoying time in the series’ older car as they work towards securing funding for seats in the latest-spec FT60 used in the current championship.

CASTROL TOYOTA RACING SERIES SET TO GO AHEAD THIS SUMMER

High-quality, world-class motor racing will be on show again this summer, with confirmation that the TRS will go ahead with a reduced three-round format.

With the core objective of finding New Zealand’s next world champion, the TRS has become a key fixture on local and global motorsport calendars.

The 2021 series will again offer young drivers the opportunity to break through and show their talents to local and international audiences. Because of the current border restrictions and the impacts of COVID-19, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand and the race promoters made the difficult decision to hold three rounds in the North Island only, instead of five rounds across both islands.

Andrew Davis, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand General Manager, says the reduced format is to keep the costs of entry as low as possible and encourage as many New Zealand entrants as feasible.

“The fundamental purpose of the TRS is to develop our homegrown racing talent. This format gives us the ability to continue to promote and support local talent and bring top-class motorsport to the New Zealand public,” he says.

While South Island fans will be disappointed, Andrew says there is every intention to return to the South Island tracks in 2022.

The first and third rounds of the TRS will be part of the MotorSport New Zealand Summer Series at Hampton Downs and Manfeild. The second round, to be raced at Hampton Downs, will be integrated with the 2021 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand Festival along with the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship.

The New Zealand Grand Prix (NZGP) will still be part of the TRS, but the round has yet to be determined.

“It’s great to be able to pull together the final pieces of the MotorSport New Zealand Summer Series in announcing the TRS dates,” says Elton Goonan, MotorSport New Zealand Acting Chief Executive.

“The TRS has been a key step in the motorsport ladder for many young drivers since its inception, so with such an unusual year we’re happy to finally be able to confirm the dates. With the focus on local drivers in 2021, we’re going to see some of New Zealand’s best young drivers take to the track, hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of New Zealand’s superstar drivers.”

Andrew says it is intended to expand the NZGP to make it a New Zealand All Stars event, with as many former TRS champions and New Zealand racing champions as possible competing against our up-and-coming young stars. The NZGP event is assigned by MotorSport New Zealand and promoted by Speedworks Events, which is the NZGP rights holder.

Because of its timing, the quality of cars and and the cost of entry, in the past the TRS has attracted international up-and-comers such as Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Nicholas Latifi, who are all full-time drivers in Formula One.

Andrew says TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand is hopeful of getting overseas drivers into the 2021 event, and is working with MotorSport New Zealand, Sport New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Immigration New Zealand on permits and logistics.

“We have been advised that the Government’s decision on international drivers will be made before the end of November, as we have considerable interest in the series this season.

“The economic contribution of visiting drivers, teams and support members is important to the viability of the TRS and the New Zealand motorsport and wider economy, so we will continue to work to enable international
participation where possible,” he says.

“Drivers competing will still enjoy the benefits of a compact four-week, three-weekend campaign with exceptional track time,” explains TRS Category Manager Nicolas Caillol.

“Three 30-minute practices, a practice start session and two 15-minute qualifying sessions will still be part of the format for the weekend. The race distances have been increased from 50km and 70km to 70km and 80km respectively.

“Two testing days will also be offered to overseas drivers between rounds two and three, which will keep a high level of overall mileage over the season – another great incentive to come and race in New Zealand,” he says.

2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series calendar:

ROUND 1 22-24 JANUARY 2021 HAMPTON DOWNS MOTORSPORT PARK

ROUND 2 28-30 JANUARY 2021 HAMPTON DOWNS MOTORSPORT PARK

ROUND 3 12-14 FEBRUARY 2021 CIRCUIT CHRIS AMON:MANFEILD

For the latest updates race over to; www.toyotagazooracing.co.nz