With a formal ceremony this morning, Toyota Racing New Zealand has officially opened its new purpose built headquarters at the Hampton Downs motor racing circuit in the north Waikato.
Half-way between Auckland and Hamilton, the headquarters is the largest dedicated motorsport facility in the country and is home to the premier Toyota Racing Series and also the single-make Toyota 86 Championship.
It features high-stud tilt-slab construction, a spacious build floor capable of holding all 20 FT 50 race cars used in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, and sufficient space to enable the championship’s transporter vehicles to load and unload inside. Extensive storage areas cater for the comprehensive range of spares required to keep modern single seater race cars in prime condition.
There are built-in office spaces and enclosed workrooms for specialist build functions including gearbox build room, composite repair and fabrication areas. In all, the facility has a main-floor area of 1,200m2 plus mezzanine.
Toyota New Zealand Motorsport Manager Steve Boyce says the move to Hampton Downs marks a new era in the company’s commitment to premium-level motor racing in New Zealand – and to nurturing fresh Kiwi race talent.
The move from TRNZ’s previous location at Mount Wellington opens up a range of opportunities for the two categories and simplifies track testing. There is also the potential for staging car launch and road car driver instruction days from the facility.
The move has also enabled Toyota to fine-tune the structure of TRNZ and to review roles and interactions of staff. Nicolas Caillol and Sarah Brown now share the category management and operational roles for Toyota Racing New Zealand.
“Nico is a vastly experienced race engineer and has run his own motorsport driver development business. He is very well connected in the European single-seater scene. Sarah comes to us from a key role with the Australian V8 Supercar organisation. Together they are a formidable pairing as we drive TRS forward through its second decade,” said Mr Boyce.
Globally respected Kiwi motorsport identity Steve Horne has put his extensive knowledge and expertise behind the championship and will act as a consultant.
“As we bed-in the new TRNZ facility, we have taken the opportunity to evolve how we deliver the championship and review key roles within the organisation. It’s a very exciting time for Toyota Racing New Zealand, and having the benefit of Steve’s international motor racing wisdom is incredibly valuable.”
In 2018, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will follow the proven order established in recent years with five consecutive weekends of motor racing beginning at Ruapuna on January 12-14 with the coveted Lady Wigram Trophy, then moving to Teretonga near Invercargill the following weekend for the Spirit of the Nation Cup before making the haul north to Hampton Downs in the Waikato for the historic NZ Motor Cup, south to Taupo for the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy and then to the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild.
Mr Boyce says the 20 TRS drives are keenly sought by rising race stars from New Zealand and around the world.
“Today we are pleased to confirm the first driver signing for the 2018 championship. Brendon Leitch is a very quick driver who has made the most of his experience in TRS over recent seasons and is at the sharp end of the intensely competitive FIA Formula 4 USA championship. We are looking forward to seeing him back on track here in 2018, and to confirming the full grid over coming weeks,” Mr Boyce said.
With two TRS graduates now racing in Formula One, another four involved as test drivers, another two having won the Le Mans 24-hour race, one having won the FIA World Endurance Championship, one racing in Formula E, and multiple champion Nick Cassidy racing Super GT for Lexus and Super Formula for Toyota in Japan, Mr Boyce said the role of the Toyota Racing Series in “honing the skills and race craft of young drivers is indisputable.”