Young multi-national field for Toyota Racing Series
Twenty drivers from 11 countries will line up on the grid for the opening round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, which starts at Ruapuna near Christchurch from January 13-15.
There are half a dozen 16 year olds in the field, including home town debutante Marcus Armstrong, who is one of just three Kiwis in the field. Armstrong has just been selected for the Ferrari Driver Academy which is the Formula One team’s elite driver programme and aims to assist young drivers toward the highest categories of motor racing.
The others are Cromwell based Brendon Leitch who finished third in the championship last year and Pukekohe’s Taylor Cockerton, who was ninth overall last summer in his debut season.
The other 16 year olds are coming from around the globe and include Dutch teenager Richard Verschoor, a member of the Red Bull Junior team which grooms drivers all the way through to its Formula One operation.
Also 16 years old is France’s karting champion Jean Baptiste Simmenauer and Keyvan Andres from the United States. Sixteen is the youngest age drivers can compete in an international motor racing series and the sextet are all arriving at Ruapuna after a career in karting.
British driver Enaam Ahmed who was winning European and World karting titles at an even younger age than three times Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Australian Luis Leeds are the last two 16 year olds in the field.
At the other end of the spectrum are two 26 year olds, Los Angeles based Russian Nikita Lastochkin and Shelby Blackstock from Kentucky, who has had two seasons in Indy Lights, which is just one step below the full IndyCar series in which Scott Dixon races.
Two Brazilians are making New Zealand their home for the five rounds, 15 race series, which the international drivers are all using as a precursor to competition in the northern hemisphere during 2017.
Eighteen year olds Pedro Piquet, the youngest son of three times World Champion, Nelson Piquet is back for his second full season in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, while Christian Hahn is a first timer.
Also 18 is Jehan Daruvala, who was runner-up to Lando Norris in the series 12 months ago. Originally from India, he and countryman Ameya Vaidyanathan who is 20 are both London based.
There are also three 17 year olds in the field, Canadian Kami Laliberte, the son of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, Harry Hayek from Australia and French teenager Thomas Neubauer.
Nineteen year Ferdinand Habsburg, whose grandfather gave up the rights to the Austrian throne is returning for a third season.
The other American in the field, Kory Enders, is also 19, while 20 year old Thomas Randle, who did the full series two years ago and just the Grand Prix last summer, completes the field.
All drivers will use the same Tatuus single-seater, powered by a 1.8 litre Toyota engine which produces around 160 kWs running on an 85 percent ethanol bio-fuel.
The cars are all fitted with the same Michelin tyres, gearbox, suspension and brakes to provide healthy competition and ensure as much close racing as possible - allowing driver skill to prevail as the deciding factor.
The Castrol Toyota Racing Series will follow a familiar weekend format consisting of free practice each Friday, qualifying and race one on Saturday and two races on Sunday at each event.