Rookie aiming to impress in the deep end

Sam Cotterill (940 x 450)

Rookie racer Sam Cotterill will contest the Toyota 86 Championship with only very limited track time behind him - but the 27 year-old Aucklander will be focussed on learning and improving in his first full season of circuit racing.

"I’ve always had an interest and a passion for the sport but never done racing," he explained. "Literally zero, no karting or anything. The first time I drove a real race car was a few months ago at a test day. But as I said, I've always had an interest in the sport and when the opportunity came along to get involved I thought why not?

"The Toyota 86 Championship seemed like the right place to start. It is a brilliantly competitive and professional series, but there are also plenty of factors of the series that suit what I’m trying to get out of it."

Cotterill - who's car will carry the colours of Delete, Three Zero Property and Pak’n’Save Lincoln Road - will be in safe hands in his debut season, running with International Motorsport as part of their five car operation. He's confident that's going to be the best place for him to learn, and learn quickly. And it will be something of a home from home for Sam, whose family have some long established connections with Lyall and Nick Williamson's successful operation.

"The team obviously has a lot of experience in the series. They have been awesome in helping me get up and running. My dad actually raced with them back in the day so there is a nice family connection there as well."

Preparation ahead of the season has been a challenge, but Sam has managed to grab some track time over the course of the past few months on test days.

"I think you can never have enough track time and it has been hard – fortunately throughout the year I’ve been able to get a few good sessions in at Hampton, Pukekohe, and Taupo with the team on various test days, so have at least had something earlier in the year. More recently there's been a lot of staying at home and washing my hands. Also I’ve watched Talladega Nights - The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, about 50 times.

"On a serious note though, I am keen to learn as much as I can in my first season and do as good a job as it is possible to do for a rookie. My objectives are pretty clear, to get better every race, learn everything I can, enjoy the series and if I end up somewhere mid-pack I’ll be extremely happy."

The final few pieces of the Toyota 86 Championship jigsaw are falling into place with Cotterill's inclusion on the entry list and a field of more than 20 cars are locked in for the first round which will now take place at Highlands Motorsport Park in January. A three day testing and acclimatisation programme will take place at Hampton Downs on December 17-19 ahead of that.

After the Highlands opener, the championship moves to Christchurch for the Ruapuna weekend on January 21-23. Three weekends later it’s back to Hampton Downs on February 11-13 for the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting. Pukekohe now shifts from its early December date to March 4-6 to become Round 4 before the category heads to the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo on March 25-27. The season concludes at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park over the weekend of April 22-24.