New Zealand’s premier motor racing championship, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will celebrate the start of its 15th anniversary season at the CRC Speedshow at the Greenlane Showgrounds on 21 and 22 July.
Designed as a class to provide a stepping stone between junior single seater classes and international categories like Formula 3 and 2, TRS has accelerated the careers of drivers who have subsequently won world titles – Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley – and other championships at higher levels.
“TRS has allowed many local drivers to gain experience with higher downforce cars with slick tyres,” said Mark Whittaker, Toyota New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager. “Once they have that experience they can compete on more equally when they head overseas.”
Initially the series was run over the full season from October to March, some years over as many as eight rounds and was dominated by local drivers.
A trio of them have each won the championship twice, Daniel Gaunt in 2006 and ’07; Mitch Evans who now drives for Jaguar in Formula E after winning the GP3 title in Europe in 2012 took out the TRS title in 2010 and 2011 and Nick Cassidy the current Japan Super GT Champion, who also won that country’s Formula 3 series in 2016, won TRS in 2012 and 2013.
On his way to the Toro Rosso Formula One team, via double World Sportscar Championships with Porsche in 2015 and 2017, Brendon Hartley finished third in the inaugural year, 2005, while double Le Mans 24 Hour winner Bamber (2015 and 2017) was the runner-up in 2008. Shane Van Gisbergen was runner-up in 2007 before turning his attention to V8 Supercars, where he took the title in 2016.
More recently the series was condensed to five rounds over five consecutive weekends in January and February, attracting more international drivers, who have been victorious for the last five summers.
“The top international drivers have provided a high level of competition for the Kiwis in recent years,” said Mr Whittaker. “Everybody gains from the experience.”
The most prominent is Lance Stroll who won in 2015. The Canadian subsequently won the European F3 title in 2016 and now races for Williams in Formula One.
Lando Norris who won here in 2016 also looks to be heading in the same direction and is now leading the international Formula 2 championship after winning the European F3 title in 2017.
One of the Tatuus cars used by all drivers in the series to provide the close racing will be on the Toyota stand at Speedshow.
It will also be show-casing its 86 coupe, which will be starting its sixth season of close, exciting racing in the Toyota 86 championship this coming summer.
Reid Harker who finished runner-up in the 2017 Toyota 86 series and then had a debut eighth overall in the Toyota Racing Series at the start of this year will be on hand.
The all new 2018 Camry will also be on display at Speedshow in a surprise one-off special edition.