“This is a fantastic car,” says Daniel Gaunt, who has been responsible for the FT50’s first laps on New Zealand soil. After the first day of track testing the new Toyota FT50 race car in changing conditions at Hampton Downs near Auckland, Gaunt has more than a touch of envy in his voice.
“Some of my fondest racing memories are of the FT40. Now driving the new car I feel like I was ten years too early! The drivers coming through in 2015 are going to have a great experience. This car has a lot more aero, the brakes are great, the handling is superb,” he said.
Gaunt said aerodynamic and ‘mechanical’ grip are both up significantly over the FT40.
“The brakes pull you up better and there’s a lot more aero grip. It does everything you want it to do and more,” he said.
Visually, the new car presents a cleaner look that is very appealing to the eye.
“The Italians are very passionate about their race cars and that shows through in their design for this car. The wings, the flowing lines, the side-pods, the floor. Everything about [the styling of the car] is actually very Italian.”
Retaining the proven and powerful Toyota 2ZZ-GE 1.8-litre engine means “there’s still something of the FT40 in the car, a good powerful reliable engine”.
“This car is a lot more relevant to what the drivers will encounter in Europe, so the internationals have that advantage going back after our summer. The Kiwis likewise are going to get a huge boost from their five week championship in the FT50,” he said.
Gaunt, TRS champion in 2006 and 2007, went on to carve out a successful career in Porsches and other ‘tintop’ categories in Australia and beyond, driving Porsches, GT cars and other exotica.
“It’s been five years since I raced a single-seater but this new car brought everything back very quickly. I wouldn’t mind dusting off my gear and getting my visor dirty again actually!”
With two championship titles to his name and more than 20 TRS race wins, Daniel Gaunt is the most successful driver in the history of the series. Now living in Melbourne, he races in a variety of categories and has carved a name for himself in Porsche Carrera and GT racing. He is the only driver to have driven, raced and won in the FT40 and subsequently tested the new FT50 on New Zealand circuits, carrying out test duties at Hampton Downs and Taupo for Toyota Racing New Zealand.