The Toyota Racing Series, Australasia’s leading single seater motor racing category is expected to have added well over $4.5 million to the New Zealand economy.
English teenager Lando Norris won the five round, 15 race series, which has just completed its 12th season. The series finished with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Palmerston North on Sunday 14 February, which Norris also won.
All the cars used in the championship are owned by Toyota New Zealand and are initially prepared by Toyota Racing New Zealand staff at their Mt Wellington workshops before being supplied to the local TRS teams.
Apart from the direct benefits of the money spent by international sponsors, the drivers and their families, including support staff, go on to become unofficial ambassadors for New Zealand having experienced the country from Invercargill to Auckland during the series.
“They spend over a month here experiencing our unique kiwi culture,” said Steve Boyce, Toyota New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager.
“Some of them come here on the recommendation of others who have been here previously to race. Who knows how many tourists we get in the future as a result of the positive feedback the series receives by ways of personal recommendation, social media or our widely distributed TV exposure.”
Drivers are placed in one of the four official TRS teams that supply their services to the series management company. The teams are contracted to supply engineering and maintenance services for the cars for each of their team driver’s. The comprehensive series package costs around $190,000 per car for the five weekends which includes over 20 days of intense testing and racing for the five events.
Sixteen of the nineteen drivers in the field this year came from offshore representing 12 different countries, all but the local New Zealand driver’s budgets are derived internationally, this year drivers from the Ferrari Academy, Force India Academy and Russian Time teams were present as well as some famous names like Piquet and Habsburg. Many of the driver’s families own successful businesses around the world and many of them choose to visit to watch the events and enjoy New Zealand’s scenery.
As well as the international funding of the drivers, the local race teams and Toyota Racing Series management staff travel the country for five weeks with expenditure on accommodation, airfares, food and other amenities at the five venues around the country including Christchurch, Invercargill, Taupo, Palmerston North and the Hampton Downs track in the North Waikato.
A fleet of over 30 rental cars and camper vans are required to travel between the venues around the country, many air miles are flown internationally and locally between the North and South Island, while some international guests choose to travel to New Zealand by private plane and ultimately require landing, parking and fuel services while here.
The series produces a one-hour TV programme for each round which is now distributed worldwide to more than 70 countries for use on free to air and pay TV, as well as coverage on various websites and social media outlets.
“We know that TRS has a general rub off for tourism here and not just for the motor racing,” said Mr. Boyce. “Toyota employees worldwide come here for holidays having seen the coverage, so it is safe to assume other people do as well.”
Drivers from all around the world use the Toyota Racing Series as training and preparation for their seasons ahead in other series around the world, TRS is the only single seater racing category of its kind that offers five weeks of intense competition during the Northern Hemisphere winter which is the off season in the January and February.