Michael Scott from Te Puke and Christchurch’s Ryan Yardley have won scholarships to race in this summer’s Toyota Finance 86 sports car championship.
The two have been offered a unique chance to advance their careers in the country’s leading single make racing series which could see either win a chance to race a Toyota 86 at Australia’s iconic Bathurst circuit, the prize for winning the championship.
Twenty year old Scott and 17 year old Yardley will both race in a new scholarship established within the Toyota Finance 86 Championship thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of Hamilton businessman Keith Houston.
Scott got the call to test for the championship just a week ago. The mechanical engineering student has raced Formula Ford and in the Toyota Racing Series in recent years and says the chance to contest the championship in a new car is “beyond exciting”.
“The TR86 is a proper race car, it rewards precision and finesse and it allows me to apply everything I have learned in single seaters. It’s fantastic to see what Keith is doing to help young race drivers with this scholarship,” he said.
Yardley has extensive Karting experience and has posted top results in the past two Formula Ford championships. He says he will be aiming for podium finishes from the start of the championship, though he knows speed and race craft will be crucial in the expanded grid for this season’s series.
Mr Houston decided to get behind young racing talent in New Zealand after the 2015 Toyota Racing Series (TRS). He has established the scholarship through his company CareVets.
“I saw what TRS was doing for Kiwi and international drivers, and I saw the Toyota 86 championship and how close the racing is. The idea of a scholarship just grew from there,” he said.
Establishing the inaugural 2015-2016 CareVets Scholarship presented Mr. Houston and championship organisers with a dilemma. Three drivers stood out at testing last week at the Hampton Downs circuit: Paul Blomqvist, Michael Scott and Ryan Yardley.
Multiple TRS champion Daniel Gaunt helped give each driver tips and assessed their overall ability and all three impressed.
“All three were on a par, and we had one drive on offer. So in the end I agreed to put on a second car and Michael and Ryan were selected. Paul was such a strong contender, he made selection very difficult. I do hope we will also see him in the championship,” said Mr. Houston.
A record 16 drivers will start the first round at the Pukekohe V8 Supercars meeting on November 7 and 8.
Further rounds are at Hampton Downs on November 28 and 29 and then at three of the rounds of the Toyota Racing Series international championship at Ruapuna, Christchurch on January 16 and 17; Teretonga, Invercargill, January 23 and 24; Manfeild near Palmerston North on February 13 and 14, with the final at the Taupo circuit on March 26 and 27.