Tenth anniversary championship set to be a thriller

2023 Toyota 86

The 2023 Toyota 86 Championship season will mark the tenth anniversary for the series which has seen names like Rowan Shepherd, Ryan Wood, Callum Hedge, Jaylyn Robotham, Ryan Yardley and Tom Alexander graduate with honours. 

Throughout its life, the compact, fine handling and nimble little TR86 has produced some of the best racing action in New Zealand motorsport history and that’s set to continue for season 10 as another eye-catching field of up and coming and established Kiwi motorsport talents do battle for the title. 

This season the six round championship takes drivers and teams to the South Island and the North Island and as a major support category for the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix as part of the new-look Super Sprint Summer Series. There’s live television and as ever with the Toyota 86 Championship a fantastic prize package. 

Eighteen drivers will take the start this weekend at the first round at Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell and as well as overall championship honours, there are keenly contested classes for rookies and masters. 

Picking a winner is as hard as ever but there are some notable names to look out for, particularly those who took part in the non-championship Supercars round at Pukekohe in September. Perhaps more than testing, that weekend gave an indication of who are next in line for honours with 2022 champion and series protagonists Rowan Shepherd, Simon Evans and Marco Giltrap all moving on to different challenges. 

Names from that weekend that stand out are Brock Gilchrist, Dion Pitt and Christina Orr-West. Gilchrist and Pitt were race winners over the weekend and Orr-West had an absolute flyer in the feature race, pushing race and round winner Callum Hedge to the limit in her quest for a first victory. 

All three have prodigious speed but in previous seasons have perhaps not been blessed with the best of what Lady Luck has to offer, especially when success in this championship is defined largely not just by speed but also consistency and the ability to take a significant points haul from every single one of the 18 races. One bad result you may get away with. More than that and it starts to get a little bit trickier. 

A fresh start for all three this season could be just the tonic they need to put together an effective championship challenge. But it won’t be as easy as that and like every season of the Toyota 86 Championship, there’s a hungry pack behind waiting to challenge for wins and make a name for themselves. 

Justin Allen wasn’t quite where he would have wanted to be at the Pukekohe weekend but as one of the most experienced racers in the championship who has race wins behind him, he is another who can be considered a serious championship challenger for 2023. 

Other names in the mix for this season would surely be Clay Osborne and wily veteran racer John Penny. Both showed the required pace at Puke and in testing plus in Penny’s case, preparation for this season has certainly stepped up compared to recent years with a new car and driver training from former champ Tom Alexander. 

On the rookie front there are plenty to watch. Some will be finding their feet before a serious crack at the championship next season and some will be aiming to carry on success they have shown in previous categories and be on the outright pace from the very first laps of the opening weekend. Watch out for Tom Bewley, Thomas Mallard and William Exton in that battle. 

Watch out too for second season runners Sam Cotterill and William Morton as well as Tayler Bryant who is back after a season off. Out of Australia is Castrol-backed Rylan Gray and he too, could be one to watch. 

It all begins with testing later this week at Cromwell before Friday practice. Qualifying takes place on Saturday with the first race of the championship on Saturday afternoon. The weekend ramps up with a Sunday morning race before the feature on Sunday afternoon.  

2023 Toyota 86 Championship drivers 

4 Tom Bewley Havelock North  

5 Dion Pitt Auckland 

6 Sam Cotterill Auckland 

7 Tim Leach Auckland  

8 Thomas Mallard Auckland 

10 Brock Gilchrist Matakana 

11 William Morton Auckland 

14 Fynn Osborne Morrinsville 

15 Clay Osborne Morrinsville 

21 Rylan Gray New South Wales 

22 John Penny Auckland 

28 Ayrton Hodson Katikati 

30 Saxon Sheehan Queenstown 

42 William Exton Blenheim 

55 Christina Orr-West Edgecumbe 

73 Harry Townshend Napier 

75 Tayler Bryant Pukekohe 

99 Justin Allen Feilding 


2023 Toyota 86 Championship Calendar 

Rd1       13-15 January 2023 Highlands Motorsport Park 

Rd2       20-22 January 2023 Teretonga Park 

Rd3       3-5 February 2023 Hampton Downs Motorsport Park 

Rd4       17-19 March 2023 Taupo International Motorsport Park 

Rd5       14-16 April 2023 Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon 

Rd6       5-7 May 2023 Hampton Downs Motorsport Park