Toyota Racing New Zealand ramps up 2018 Championship plans


New premises, new people: the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, New Zealand’s premier racing category, is once more raising the standard for top-level motor racing.

Toyota Racing New Zealand has now confirmed all five rounds of the 2018 Championship which once more begins at Ruapuna near Christchurch with the coveted Lady Wigram Trophy and concludes five weeks later with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Feilding.

Toyota New Zealand Motorsport Manager Steve Boyce says the fifteen-race championship has won global recognition for its unique role as a high intensity boost to the racing careers of New Zealand and international drivers.

“TRS is widely respected by motor racing managers, talent spotters and young race drivers around the world. Now we are building on the solid foundation established over the past 13 years and taking the operation to a new level with some very exciting initiatives,” he said.

This month Toyota Racing New Zealand moves from a shared facility at Mount Wellington to purpose-built premises at the Hampton Downs circuit in the northern Waikato, a shift that emphatically underlines Toyota New Zealand’s strong ongoing commitment to Toyota Racing Series and the Toyota 86 one-make championship that runs alongside it.

“Our establishment category management team, Barrie and Louise Thomlinson, created the championship from scratch and did a great job bringing it through the decade-long FT 40 era of the original car and the launch of the new FT 50 chassis.

“In that time, they have helped take TRS to a very strong position globally. They are now moving on to new challenges and leave the category well prepared for the future,” Mr Boyce said.

Globally respected Kiwi motorsport identity Steve Horne has put his extensive knowledge and expertise behind the championship and will act as a consultant, advising TRNZ and Mr Boyce on a wide range of matters to ensure continuity as TRNZ recruits its new category management staff. 

“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.”

For 2018, the 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 then moving to Teretonga the following weekend before making the haul north to Hampton Downs in the Waikato, south to Taupo and then to the Grand Prix.

With two drivers now in Formula One, another in Formula E, Nick Cassidy racing two premier categories in Japan and TRS graduates at the front of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the role of the Toyota Racing Series in honing the skills and race craft of young drivers is indisputable. 

Recent Toyota Racing Series racers have endorsed the value they found in contesting of the championship, which occurs in the northern hemisphere winter during testing bans and outside championship seasons in Europe, the UK and North America.

Mr Boyce says 20 drives here are expected to be keenly sought by rising race stars from around the world.

“Once again, the world’s leading young race drivers are developing their plans for staying race-fit at the end of the northern hemisphere race season, and they are looking south to New Zealand. Enquiry is coming in now from Europe, the UK, America and Asia,” he said.

The winter ‘off season’ work of stripping, checking and rebuilding the FT 50 race cars used in the Championship is already under way, and the massive behind-the-scenes logistics effort that supports the summer series has begun.

“Together with the teams active in the Championship we are working hard to once more deliver world-class motor racing in January and February.”