TOYOTA GAZOO TR86 test day at Ruapuna at capacity
High demand for Toyota 86 testing on the South Island has meant a capacity 12 up and coming drivers are locked and loaded for the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship test next Tuesday at Ruapuna.
The demand comes off the back of a fantastic 2021 championship, won by South Islander Rowan Shepherd after a season long three way tussle between himself, Simon Evans and Ryan Wood.
With the 2021-2022 season set to begin in November and including two rounds in the South Island, Category Manager Geoff Short says there’s been no shortage of interest.
“The level of competition we have seen in recent seasons, our very reasonable budgets, parity, data sharing, TV coverage and Toyota’s professional support for everyone in the championship are obviously top of the list for most drivers who are coming to test,” he said. “We’re at capacity and that’s great news as we return to being a truly national championship with events across both islands and drivers from all over New Zealand.”
The drivers testing next week represent a cross section from a variety of junior and domestic categories on the South Island. They will all get to work with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's professional motorsport engineers to interpret and understand data as well as benefitting from one-on-one driver tuition with one of three professional or championship winning drivers on hand during the day.
Recently crowned Best Bars Toyota 86 Champion Rowan Shepherd is one of those drivers and is from the South Island. He says the test day is a fantastic opportunity to sample New Zealand’s only professionally run and factory supported domestic motorsport championship.
"The championship is all about parity and ensuring it's the best drivers who shine and come through," he explained. "That has been the consistent outcome of the Toyota 86 championship year on year since it began and it really is a fantastic opportunity for young drivers to improve their skills and move to the next level. It's great being a South Islander and being the champion, but it would also be great to see more representation as there's plenty of talent down on the Mainland!"
Data is shared during the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, ensuring every driver can see where their rivals are faster. Identical tyres and tyre allocation, factory tuned and sealed engines and identical specification cars ensure it's a level playing field.
Short says that level playing field is a big draw card for the best drivers. "Whilst it is a professionally run and delivered championship series, the emphasis has always been on fairness and finding the best talent, so you won’t win it with just a blank cheque book," he said.
"It’s the most talented drivers who invariably shine through and you only have to look at where most of our champions and stars have progressed to in motorsport to see the value of the TR86 category in their careers.
"They make strong connections with the only manufacturer seriously involved in New Zealand motorsport, they learn how to understand and use data and they race against the best. As for opportunity, this year the championship was fought out between a rising star, a young gun and an experienced championship winning racing driver and it wasn't decided until the last race of the season. In other words the opportunity is there for everyone to shine."
Toyota 86 graduates are currently represented in international single seater racing and in Australian V8 and Porsche championships and international saloon racing categories.
Toyota New Zealand supports the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship with guaranteed television coverage and hospitality, providing a professional platform for competitors to gain sponsorship. TGRNZ also backs up the series with technical support and provides a 40 foot container of parts to make it easy to go racing at a national level.