2018 Season Drivers
09 - Marcus Armstrong - M2 Competition
City / Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Born: 29 July 2000
Team: M2 Competition
Marcus starts the 2018 Castrol Toyota Racing Series as one of the favourites after finishing fourth in his debut season last summer, with three wins and five other podium places.
A season in Europe was almost perfect with victory in the Italian Formula 4 Championship including two wins and seven podiums in 12 races. He was runner-up in the German F4 series with three wins and eight podiums in the 21 races, only losing the title in the very last race of the season.
Marcus’ career began in karting in 2007 at the age of seven and ramped up sharply to win the Cadet national title in 2011 and was second overall in the 100cc Junior Restricted class at the NZ School Nationals. In 2012 Armstrong was juggling study with motor racing both in New Zealand and the USA, and winning the Kiwi 100cc Junior Restricted title.
In an impressive karting career spanning six years, Armstrong has amassed seven major category title wins and many podia finishes here and in the USA.
He drove seven races of the inaugural Toyota Finance 86 Championship in 2013-2014. Despite only contesting the second part of the season he finished eighth overall.
Returning the following year, he raced the first three rounds, recording two outright wins and finishing seventh, winning the Rookie Award.
Armstrong topped his 86 career off with three races in 2016, recording two podium finishes and one fastest lap.
His racing gathered momentum in 2016, competing in European and World Championship events in the intensely competitive KZ classes. At the same time, he began testing in a Formula Renault single-seater, then contested the penultimate round of the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC at Nürburgring and at the final round for the British Formula 3 series.
Though entered as a ‘wild card’ with the intention of simply gaining experience in single seaters, Armstrong was instantly competitive in fields of two dozen or more.
68 - Juan Manuel Correa - M2 Competition
City / Location: Florida
Born: 9 August 1999
Team: M2 Competition
Originally from Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, Juan Manuel Correa races under the flag of the United States.
He will become the first Ecuadorian driver to compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series in its 14-year history.
Florida based Correa has competed in Formula 4 in Europe for the last two years, taking in both the Italian and German Championships.
In 2016 the now 18-year-old won three races in Italy and scored another podium place along with two pole positions and two fastest race laps to finish sixth in the championship. A single podium in Germany saw him finish tenth in that series.
This year Correa concentrated on the German Championship scoring a single podium and fastest lap to finish ninth in the series, while he only had six races in the Italian series.
Correa finished his season by competing in the last four rounds of the GP3 series which is a curtain raiser to the Formula One Grand Prix.
Correa came up against Christchurch’s Marcus Armstrong this season, where Armstrong was runner-up in Germany and won the Italian Formula 4 title in his debut season.
Like most young drivers, Correa started his career in karting, where he competed in the United States between 2008 and 2014, with success at state level events.
86 - Brendon Leitch - Victory Motor Racing
City / Location: Cromwell, New Zealand
Born: 28 November 1995
Team: Victory Motor Racing
This will be Brendon’s fifth season in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
Two years ago, he was the most successful local driver in the series, finishing third overall. He won the preliminary race at Manfeild and had three other podium finishes.
In 2015, he won at his home track, Teretonga, having made his TRS debut the previous season.
Last summer his series was punctuated by spectacular crashes at Teretonga, after qualifying on pole position. And then at Manfeild with multiple cart wheels. In between he won the Saturday race at Taupo to finish ninth overall.
Like many drivers Leitch started his career in karting in 2005, moving into Formula Ford in 2011.
In the 2012 National Championship he finished third and was runner-up the following year with three wins and 11 podium places.
Brendon competed in the American Formula 4 Championship over the winter finishing ninth after a victory and three podium places.
If Leitch can qualify nearer to the front of the grid he could be a real threat to the international visitors, especially at the two South Island tracks which he knows so well.
52 - Charles Milesi - MTEC Motorsport
City / Location: Dijon, France
Born: 4 March 2001
Team: MTEC Motorsport
Charles Milesi is from Talant, a suburb of Dijon in eastern France and has raced in both the French Formula 4 and Northern Europe Cup Formula Renault Championships in 2017, winning five races and finishing on the podium a further five times.
"I am very happy to do the Toyota Racing Series with the MTEC team,” said Milesi. “I am also very happy to discover these cars and I hope to make a good impression during the series.”
Milesi finished on a high in the French series winning two races at the penultimate round at Barcelona to end up fourth in the series. He was sixth in the Northern Europe Cup Formula Renault Championship.
He started karting when he was eight and finished runner-up in the French Championship for his class in 2013. Two years later he was again runner-up in the WSK Final KFJ. In 2016 he was second in the German Junior Championship and the WSK Junior Title.
Milesi will return home to compete in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship after using the Castrol Toyota Racing Series as preparation.
17 - Clement Novalak - Giles Motorsport
City / Location:
Born: 5 October 23 December 2000
Team: Giles Motorsport
Double WSK world champion kart racer, Clement Novalak was born in France but raised in Switzerland. He began competitive karting in the French Championship in 2012 and has been racing in the United Kingdom for the world-renowned Tony Kart factory team.
He has a string of top karting results to his name. In 2015 he won the WSK Super Master Series junior title and finished second in the CIK-FIA World KF Junior Championship. The following year he was second at the MSA Kartmasters Grand Prix in the Senior OK class. This year he backed his WSK Junior Title with victory in the senior competition and finished third in the Swedish Championship, also in the OK class.
“I first heard about TRS from my good friend Marcus Armstrong. Many other drivers are recommending it as a great championship because you get to do a lot of racing action in a short space of time without the normal huge break between two seasons which tends to get boring for us drivers. TRS will be my first step into formula cars from karts, and I'm really looking forward to it.”
He will contest the 2018 Castrol Toyota Racing Series with Giles Motorsport. Novalak says being a rookie he will focus on learning as much as possible during his time in New Zealand and getting as much racing experience as he can.
“I'll obviously go there with a winning mindset but thinking about developing myself as a driver and taking any opportunities given to me.” After his New Zealand season Novalak intends to pursue a Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup championship.
04 - Reid Harker - Giles Motorsport
City / Location: Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Born: 22 August 1995
Team: Giles Motorsport
Reid Harker is making his debut in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series this summer. From Albany on Auckland’s North Shore, Harker, has spent the last three seasons racing in the Toyota 86 Championship, culminating in the runner-up position last summer.
His motorsport career started in karting in 2009 at the age of 13. In the next five years he had a string of podium places at National Secondary School events and other race meetings, including winning the Formula Junior and Rotax Junior titles in 2011.
Over the summer of 2013-14 he made his debut in both the BMW E30 one make series and some Formula First races. The following season Harker concentrated on the BMW championship, finishing fourth and also took in a couple of Toyota 86 races. Harker finished seventh in the Toyota series in 2015/16
Last summer, seven victories and 12 podium positions in the 18 race series took him to runner-up in the 86 series. Harker has tested both the current FT50 car used for the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, as well as the older model FT40.
Harker is the first driver to step directly from the one-make 86 sports coupe series into TRS. “I enjoy the high level of competition single-make racing offers and the Toyota Racing Series is a great opportunity to compete amongst the best up and coming drivers. I strongly believe this is the next best step to grow as a driver before heading overseas.”
35 - Robert Shwartzman - M2 Competition
City / Location: St Petersburg, Russia
Born: 16 September 1999
Team: M2 Competition
Robert Shwartzman has just entered the Ferrari Driver Academy after a successful test with Prema Power Team last September.
The 18-year-old from St Petersburg in Russia is the fourth driver in successive years from the Ferrari Driver Academy to come to New Zealand to gain more experience before continuing his career in Europe.
Canadian Lance Stroll was the first in 2015 when he won the Castrol Toyota Racing Series. In 2016 Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou was supported by the prancing horse logo, when he finished sixth here. Last summer, Christchurch’s Marcus Armstrong drove for the Maranello junior team.
This year Shwartzman finished third in the Renault 2.0 Eurocup winning six races and gaining six other podium finishes. He did the same series in 2016 to finish eighth overall and also did the Northern Europe Renault series, where he took two wins.
Shwartzman spent 2014 and 2015 racing in Formula 4, starting his single seater career in some Italian races. In 2015 he raced in both Italy and Germany, finishing third in the Italian series with the help of two wins and fourth in Germany with eight podium places.
Karting was Shwartzman’s initial motorsport, which he started as a five-year-old in 2005. His most notable success in the development sport came in 2010 when he was second in the WSK Nations Cup in the Mini class.
Then in 2013 he won the WSK Final Cup KFJ and finished third in the CIK FIA World KF Junior Championship.
07 - Richard Verschoor - M2 Competition
City / Location: Benschlap, Netherlands
Born: 16 December 2000
Team: M2 Competition
Dutch teenager Richard Verschoor, was one of the stars of last summer’s Castrol Toyota Racing Series and returns for another crack at the title he narrowly missed back in February.
Verschoor, who turned 17 just before Christmas won three races last summer when he was the youngest driver in the series and finished on the podium another four times, to still have a chance at the title when he got to the final round, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild.
In the closest championship in the Toyota Racing Series 14-year history, he finished third overall, just 12 points behind Australian Thomas Randle.
"I'm really happy to join M2 Competition for my second season in the Toyota Racing Series,” said Verschoor. “Last time I was extremely close to winning the championship, so I can't wait to go for the win again this year!
“The M2 team showed some great performance over the past years so I'm sure we will have a good chance."
Verschoor has had a quiet season in Europe this year competing in two Renault 2.0 series. He finished ninth in the main Eurocup and eighth in the Northern European Championship, where he only competed in 4 of the 12 races, winning once and scoring two other podiums.
In his single seater debut in 2016, he won the opening round of the Northern European Zone Formula 4 Championship at Sochi. Verschoor was victorious for 11 consecutive races to take the title. From Benschop in the Netherlands, he was even more dominant in the Spanish Formula 4 series, winning 17 of the 20 races.
Verschoor started his car racing career after five seasons of karting, winning Dutch titles, German and European championships as well as a sixth-place finish at the World Championship, and his career profile was raised when he won the CIK-FIA Academy trophy.
While he was still karting Verschoor was elevated to the Dutch Knaf Talent First program, which is an initiative of the Dutch Motorsport ASN.
28 - Cameron Das - Victory Motor Racing
City / Location: Baltimore, USA
Born: 17 March, 2000
Team: Victory Motor Racing
A trip to his local indoor kart track near Baltimore in early 2014 has led American Cameron Das to the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
Das showed some promise and won some local kart events that year. In 2015 he dipped his toe in the water of single seater racing in Formula F and Formula Lites competition with more success.
With backing from his parents last year, he did the full season of the inaugural USA Formula 4 Championship, taking nine wins in the 15-race series. He also had nine fastest laps and started from pole position six times on his way to winning the series.
He also did some Formula 2000 events in the USA and a handful of British Formula 3 races.
That led to a full season in the United Kingdom this year where he finished fifth in the British Formula 3 Championship on tracks he had never seen before, scoring a win, six podiums and four fastest laps. He also took four pole positions.
In between times he did some more F2000 racing at home.
"Three years ago, I didn't watch motor racing. I didn't understand it," said Das. “For me to get to this level so quickly, it certainly surprised everyone."
"I was content with staying average in sports and games at school, but basically, the first time I went in an indoor kart, I had the competitive bug."
15 - James Pull - M2 Competition
City / Location: London
Born: 5 October 1999
Team: M2 Competition
James Pull has just finished runner-up in the British Formula 3 Championship in his rookie season in the class. Born in Singapore, Pull is now based in England.
He was the model of consistency in the 24-race series, finishing on the podium at least once at all eight rounds of the series, scoring 14 podium finishes in all.
Eighteen-year-old Pull drove for the Carlin team, the same outfit who has groomed the 2016 Castrol Toyota Racing Series champion Llando Norris to the brink of Formula One, where he is now the McLaren Team’s reserve driver.
Pull raced in the British Formula Four Championship in 2016, finishing fourth overall, claiming two victories and six other visits to the podium in the 30-race campaign. He had started his single seater career in the same series in 2015 when he won one race, took three more podiums and finished tenth in the championship.
Pull started his motor racing career in karting in Singapore in 2009 and in his final season in Asia won the Rotax Max Challenge in Singapore and finished runner-up in the same class in the Asian Championship in 2011.
He competed in karting in Britain and Europe between 2011 and 2014, before moving into Formula 4 in 2015.
44 - Calvin Ming - Victory Motor Racing
City / Location: Georgetown, Guyana
Born: 25 July 1996
From Georgetown in Guyana, which is on the north western Atlantic coast of South America, the 21-year-old has done most of his motor racing in the United States and Mexico.
“I’m friends with Kory Enders and Nikita Lastochkin who raced here last summer,” said Ming. “They told me the series is very professional and almost every car in the series is very even which makes for very good racing.”
This year Ming finished fifth in the American Formula 2000 series scoring four podium finishes and one fastest lap.
He won the Nacam FIA Formula 4 Championship held from late in 2016 through to the middle of 2017 with 21 races in Texas and Mexico, winning seven times and scoring another 10 podiums, as well as five fastest laps and three pole positions.
The previous season – 2015/16 - he had come 11th in the series.
While not at University at Miramar in Florida, Ming did the 2016 Formula 1600 series in the United States finishing fourth overall with three wins, 8 podium places, three fastest laps and one pole position.
Having started karting in 2011 in Guyana, Ming won his national 125 KZ title in 2012 and 2013. By 2014 he was racing in the USA and in 2015 he did a mixture of karting and single seater events in his changeover to single seater racing permanently.
“I’m also looking forward to racing against some of the best drivers from Europe and the rest of the world. At this point in time there is always a lot I can learn from driving in different series and driving cars with different tyre compounds. I plan to take full advantage of this amazing learning opportunity.”
11 - Taylor Cockerton - MTEC Motorsport
City / Location: Pukekohe, New Zealand
Born: 18 September 1997
Team: MTEC Motorsport
After finishing seventh in the TRS last summer, Cockerton spent the winter racing in the Formula Masters series in China and Malaysia, winning the title.
The 2014/15 NZ Formula Ford champion, this will be Cockerton’s third season of TRS.
In 2017 Cockerton had a fourth place at Ruapuna and finished in the top six in six other races, during the 15 race series.
The twenty-year-old Waikato University student who may race in Asian GT events for an Audi team after TRS, obviously wants to improve in 2018.
The Masters series gave him important “seat time” over the winter and Cockerton is now looking to get on the podium in races.
“We want to improve on last season. We particularly want and need to improve on our qualifying efforts.”
Two years ago, Cockerton was able to finish all 15 races, learning the importance of consistent points scoring.
05 - Ryan Yardley - MTEC Motorsport
City / Location: Christchurch
Christchurch driver Ryan Yardley has become the fourth New Zealander to enter the 2018 Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
Yardley (19) may be the most excited of the four about his opportunity - in fact the Christchurch racer says he wishes the championship “could start tomorrow”. Though he knows many of his rivals have more experience in modern “wings and slicks” single-seater race cars, he is determined to do all he can to be competitive.
“This is a big step up, my first category with proper aerodynamics. I’ve had 40-50 laps in a car and will be fine tuning on my single-seater form between now and the championship, including some simulator work. So I’m looking to start fast and learn everything I can,” he said.
Having the opportunity to attend the MotorSport New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy in 2014 has helped Yardley grasp the opportunity. The academy works with young racers on every major aspect of a motorsport career, including fitness, nutrition, media skills and sponsorship.
The latter has been Yardley’s main focus over the past month. Just as much of New Zealand was in a pre-Christmas mode, the young racer has been on the telephone and knocking on doors seeking the funding he needs to compete. Like so many young New Zealanders before him, he needs to marry up his racing talent with the funding that will let him compete on a level footing with the internationals.
Yardley says there is still space on the car for another sponsor. The Championship is televised in New Zealand over five weeks and is seen overseas in up to 100 countries.
“It’s a great chance to get a Kiwi brand onto national TV and out around the world,” he said.
The 2018 TRS starts at his ‘home’ circuit, Ruapuna. Yardley says having raced two seasons of the Toyota 86 Series is an advantage. First up, the TR 86 sport coupes use Michelin slicks so he is familiar with how slicks behave and understands how to get the best performance from a set of tyres. Second, the 86 series visits every circuit contested in the five week TRS Championship.
“So I am already familiar with the circuits though the braking points and cornering speeds are of course different.”
Yardley’s aim is to join the battle at the ‘sharp end’ of the field, to run in the top five and to score some podiums as the season progresses. To achieve this he knows he will have to bring his ‘A-game’ from the very first practice session.
“I can’t wait!”