Top internationals challenge leading kiwi drivers


New Zealand’s premier single-seater championship has once more attracted a top field of international drivers to this country to do battle with New Zealand drivers for the most prestigious trophies in New Zealand motor racing.

The championship, now in its 12th season, was established to help young New Zealanders to advance their racing careers by giving them experience in modern composite-based ‘wings and slicks’ race cars. It has launched Kiwis into international racing careers. New Zealand graduates of the series include 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley, Le Mans 24-Hour race winner Earl Bamber, GP2 racers Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway, Japanese Formula Three champion Nick Cassidy, Chinese Formula Masters champion James Munro, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Chris van der Drift and V8 Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen.

This year three Kiwis are racing – James Munro (Christchurch), 2015 national Formula Ford champion Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe) and 2015 Spirit of a Nation TRS feature race winner Brendon Leitch.

Munro is having his third shot at winning the TRS championship as is Leitch, while it is Cockerton’s first year in the top category.

The international talent they will race against is considerable.

Brazilian 17-year-old Pedro Piquet, son of three-time world Formula One champion Nelson (1981, 1983, 1987), is returning to the TRS after contesting the opening rounds in 2014. In the intervening period he has won the Brazilian Formula Three Championship for the last two years and will be using the TRS series as a springboard into the FIA European Formula Three Championship where he will team up with British driver and 2015 TRS graduate Callum Ilott at Van Amersfoort racing.

Canadian Kami Lalibertè follows in the wheel tracks of his countryman and 2015 TRS champion Lance Stroll. In 2015 Lalibertè has been racing in the new Formula 4 category in France and Germany. In the latter part of the season he was team-mates with Mick Schumacher (son of multiple F1 world champion Michael) and Harrison Newey (son of respected F1 designer Adrian Newey) at Van Amersfoort Racing. Lalibertè will use TRS to hone his speed and racecraft going into the 2016 European campaign with Van Amersfoort.

British driver Lando Norris, 16, became the youngest ever world karting champion two years ago and has just won the British Formula 4 championship,

Mitch Evans’ 2015 GP2 teammate Artem Markelov is one of three internationals returning for a second run at a TRS title. The 21-year-old is the second-oldest driver in the field is looking for race wins and a strong push for the title.

Elite academies have once more directed their rising stars to the championship.

Indian driver Jehan Daruvala is a protégé of the driver development academy set up by Vijay Mallya’s F1 team Force India and is coached by Oliver Rowland, who recently won the Renault 3.5 litre title in Europe.

Chinese driver Guanyu ‘Joe’ Zhou is a Ferrari Driver Academy driver who finished second in the Italian Formula 4 championship and also contested rounds of the German Formula 4 championship.

Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco is a member of the Chip Ganassi Racing driver development  squad in North America. The world-renowned Ganassi outfit enjoys a strong Kiwi connection with Kiwi Scott Dixon: the Aucklander has won the Indy championship four times for the team.

Information about the Toyota Racing Series, including live lap timing, is available on the championship website, and racing is updated live on Facebook and Twitter. The championship has its own TV coverage with a one-hour programme on TV3 a week after each round. Coverage also screens on New Zealand’s SKY TV and in more than 70 overseas countries.

Competition Number Driver Team
4 Theo Bean ETEC Motorsport
5 Pedro Piquet M2 Competition
6 Jehan Daruvala M2 Competition
10 Artem Markelov M2 Competition
11 Taylor Cockerton ETEC Motorsport
13 Rodrigo Baptista ETEC Motorsport
15 Kami Laliberte M2 Competition
17 Devlin DeFrancesco Giles Motorsport
18 Julian Hanses Victory Motor Racing
21 Nicolas Dapero Giles Motorsport
23 William Owen Giles Motorsport
25 Bruno Baptista Victory Motor Racing
26 Timothe Buret ETEC Motorsport
31 Lando Norris M2 Competition
33 Guanyu Zhou M2 Competition
40 James Munro Giles Motorsport
62 Ferdinand Habsburg Giles Motorsport
67 Antoni Ptak Giles Motorsport
86 Brendon Leitch Victory Motor Racing