Albany’s Reid Harker is ‘hugely’ excited by the prospect of stepping up to the single-seater Castrol Toyota Racing Series in January.
Harker has been a front-runner in the Toyota 86 Championship in recent years and finished second in that series this year. Now, he says, it is time to test his skill in New Zealand’s premier single-seater championship. With something of a ‘name’ as a single-make racer, he is the first driver to step directly from the one-make 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. The Toyota Racing Series has proved to be the breeding ground for successful Kiwis who have gone on to become stars of the sport and I strongly believe this is the next best step to grow as a driver before heading overseas.
Harker has driven the Toyota FT 50 single-seater race car used by the championship and says he was pleased by how quickly he adjusted.
“I had always kept a keen eye on the series but to be honest focused much of my attention on saloon car racing to pursue a future in GT racing. This is still very much our plan however the Toyota Racing Series will without a doubt add great value and further develop my skills,” he said.
The car was a ‘revelation’.
“We were given the opportunity to test the car a little while back thanks to Toyota Racing NZ, when we were still weighing our options for 2018. The cars are amazing to drive, the grip provided by the aero was an eye opener as this was my first taste of a wings and slicks car and I can’t wait to get back in the seat. We are currently working on a testing program leading up to the series in the FT40 [earlier-model TRS car] which will be important if we are to start strong,” he said.
As a further preparation for TRS, Harker took the opportunity to hone his race skills in a last run in his trusty #4 Toyota TR 86. In early November, he contested the opening round of the 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship in front of the 104,000 crowd at the ITM V8 Supercars sprints at Pukekohe.
“I really enjoyed driving the 86 again at Pukekohe though the category’s new Hankook tyres took a bit of getting used to. The Toyota 86 Championship provides close racing and the level of competition is high which definitely puts me in good form for TRS. I feel confident that much of what I have learned will be transferable, though of course the TRS cars are so much quicker, have so much more grip and stopping power. It’s going to be a very exciting five weeks.”
Harker will contest TRS with the respected Giles Motorsport team and says his plans for 2018 after the Championship are still to be confirmed.
“Our options are open at the moment. I would love to compete in one of the many Porsche series held around the globe or follow up with an international wings and slicks category.”
The 2018 Castrol Toyota racing Series is five weekends of intense competition, a total of fifteen races for some of the most prestigious trophies in New Zealand motorsport. It starts at Ruapuna near Christchurch on January 13.