Mallard back for 2021-22 and says fans will be the biggest winners
Popular racer Mark Mallard is confirmed for a second full season in the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship and he's hoping to learn a thing or two from a big field of talented rising stars when the lights go out for the start of the season.
Mallard made his debut in the endurance series at the end of 2019 before committing to a full season campaign in the Creme Insurance car alongside several other racing and business commitments. Having enjoyed his racing in the TR86 last season and made many friends in his first full campaign, he says he's looking forward to the 2021-22 championship, but it should be an even bigger hit with fans.
"I'm a bit old to focus on the big field," he said. "I’ve found that the major thing is to take care of yourself and the rest will follow, but honestly I think it’s the fans that should be excited because from the entry list I’ve seen this will be the best touring car championship in New Zealand for a long time. Although I'll be racing in the Masters class, I consider all of the drivers - even the young ones - to be hardened race veterans who have done considerable time in karts and on simulators. We'll have the highest level of drivers ever and I just hope they can teach this old dog a new trick or two.
Mallard may be playing something of double bluff, having raced off season in the North Island Endurance Championship with former series winner Callum Hedge alongside him. Prior to lockdown, he was also seeing some gains from regular sessions in the gym.
"Yeah there has been a lot of gym work which unfortunately in lockdown has been largely replaced with a more holistic approach consisting of a more fruit - and particularly grape - based diet," he added.
"I’m a bit like the dad of the grid so my goal is primarily to help the next generation of drivers who come through the series to have a good time and learn from the important lessons that such a competitive class gives. Sometimes that’s riding the highs with them and sometimes it is helping them up through the lows. And beat John Penny, that's always a top goal.
"On a more serious note, my family has been involved with the NZ Motor Cup for many years through my grandfather Eric, my dad Neil and brother Paul so I always try to race at the GP round and try to make Pop proud because if he’s watching any motorsport up there it will be the New Zealand Grand Prix. So that will be a big, big weekend for me and my crew."
The 2021-2022 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship begins at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park over the weekend of November 12-14 before a short trip to Pukekohe Park three weeks later over the weekend of December 3-5.
After the Christmas break the teams and drivers will head 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.