A record field, featuring the cream of the country’s young up and coming motor racing talent is expected to contest this summer’s Toyota 86 Championship.
“We’ve never had so many potential drivers three and a half months before the first round,” said Geoff Short, the category manager.
When registrations officially open, he expects 17 drivers to confirm their entry. “I’m talking to several other drivers. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get to 20 plus cars on the grid.”
On the list of drivers to confirm for this season’s championship are three drivers from this year’s MotorSport New Zealand Elite Academy including Christchurch 16-year-old Jayden Ransley, who was unlucky to finished fourth in last year’s championship. Jayden showed that he will be a real contender with his ability to win races.
The other Academy class mates who will be competing in the Toyota 86 Championship are 18-year-old Aucklander Peter Vodanovich who showed promise in the few rounds he competed in and 15-year-old Callum Hedge, who is the current Formula 1600 Champion.
The previous two winners of the Elite Academy, 20-year-old Jordan Baldwin from Auckland who topped the class last year and 2016’s top student, 19-year-old Jacob Smith from St Heliers are also in the run of the pack chasing this year’s championship.
Baldwin, in his rookie season last summer, finished fifth, while Smith will be back to the full championship this season after winning a race at the final round.
The Toyota 86 Championship, which is about to enter its sixth season, will start with the now traditional first round in conjunction with Supercars at Pukekohe from November 2-4.
For the first time in two years, Toyota Racing New Zealand has built more cars to meet the demand from competitors and has already sold three.
Plans are afoot to have a non-championship one-hour enduro race at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo over the weekend of April 13 and 14. Two drivers per car would contest a short qualifying race each and then team up for a two driver, one-hour grand finale.
The full schedule for the Toyota 86 Championship is:
November 2-4 Pukekohe (with Supercars)
December 7-9 Pukekohe short track (no back straight chicane)
January 11-13 Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell (with Castrol Toyota Racing Series)
January 18-20 Teretonga Park, Invercargill (with Castrol Toyota Racing Series)
February 8-10 NZ Grand Prix at Manfeild, Manawatu (with Castrol Toyota Racing Series)
March 9-10 Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato