Top karter switches to Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship with THoR
Karting top gun Rianna O'Meara-Hunt will make the switch to circuit racing this season when she joins the most competitive field ever in the Best Bars Toyota 86 2021-2022 Championship.
The 20-year-old Wellington racer will join The Heart of Racing as part of its three car team run by International Motorsport.
O'Meara-Hunt is one of the country's top karters and has raced with distinction in the class for 12 years. She represented New Zealand in 2019 at the World Finals in Italy and has a history of impressive achievements on her karting CV. She was the first junior woman to win a Rotax Max Pro Tour state title in Australia and the first junior woman to win Rotax Max Challenge events in New Zealand.
Last season she took victory in the Senior ROK class of the North Island Championship. She was selected as New Zealand’s representative again in 2020 for the ROK finals in Italy, but was unable to attend due to the pandemic. The young racing star is looking forward to traveling for competition again once it is safe to do so.
"With my plans to race karts in Europe being postponed due to COVID-19, I am looking for a fresh and exciting challenge. The TR86 championship looks to be a super-competitive series this year and it has become a proven pathway for racers to learn great race craft while providing a solid foundation to start any race car journey.
"I love travelling to warm locations where I can mix motorsport and the opportunity to water ski, snorkel and swim, so it's never good to miss out!" she said. “While motorsports takes up most of my time, I am really passionate about health and fitness in my free time.”
Off track, Rianna has completed her diploma in the industry gold standard NZ Institute of Health and Fitness Personal Training course. Her high level of fitness will certainly aid in her transition from karting to race cars in the upcoming championship. We got a glimpse of her potential at Hampton Downs during her only test day thus far, where she laid down some very promising lap times in her Toyota 86.
"I have only driven one day at Hampton Downs so I am really just starting to understand the basics of car handling and control," she added. "Coming straight out of kart racing without ever competing in a race car event, or even seeing most of the tracks, the learning curve is massive - I’ll be a rookie in the field for sure! Luckily, the experience of racing with IMS has been amazing. They are very patient and went through a lot of data and video with me to get me as comfortable as possible in the car. That being said, I hope I can get a few more days training with them before the season starts.
"I am determined to maximise this opportunity, to learn as fast as I can, to absorb as much from the team as possible and most importantly, to improve in a race car every time I go out on track. With IMS and The Heart of Racing behind me I know I am in great hands.
"Every driver wants to get out there and win no matter their experience level. For me it's no different but I need to accept that this is just the start of my race car journey so this will be a massive year of learning, absorbing and soaking up as much knowledge and wisdom as I can from the talented and experienced people around me so I can build a solid foundation.
"I would love to be racing at the pointy end of the rookie field as soon as possible through the season. I am really looking forward to working hard behind the scenes with such an amazing group of people and I am proud to race in support of the Starship Foundation.”
Once the big debut weekend at Hampton Downs is complete, the championship moves to Pukekohe three weeks later over the weekend of December 3-5. The series pauses for its Christmas break before heading south to Cromwell for the Highlands weekend on January 14-16 and then move 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 before the season finale at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo on March 25-27.