Motorsport: Series gains growing world recognition

By Eric Thompson

Rising international star Mitch Evans leads to turn one at Hampton Downs last season. Photo / Bruce Jenkins
Rising international star Mitch Evans leads to turn one at Hampton Downs last season. Photo / Bruce Jenkins

The wings and slicks Toyota Racing Series (TRS) is a tried and tested race package with a growing international reputation as a great way to spend a European winter in the sun.

More international drivers are heading to the Southern Hemisphere to get extra race miles under their respective belts and experience fierce competition from local drivers.

Last season, race fans were able to watch Russian, Australian, Japanese and German drivers mix it with the Kiwi lads. Since the series, devised by Barrie Thomlinson and Steve Boyce, was introduced in 2005 it has grown from strength to strength.

The TRS championship has been the launch pad for locals such as Shane van Gisbergen, Brendon Hartley, Richie Stanaway, Andy Knight, Daniel Gaunt and Mitch Evans who is now under the watchful eye of Formula One driver Mark Webber contesting the GP3 series in Europe.

Over the years, the New Zealand series has gained traction in Europe and category manager Thomlinson has been the leading light in getting young up-and-coming overseas drivers to come Downunder in their off season and get quality race miles under their belts.

"We believe the 2012 Toyota Series will provide an exceptionally good opportunity for our young Kiwi drivers to compete against some of the best young European professionals who will come to New Zealand to gain track time and experience," said Thomlinson.

The TRS is the first FIA international race event on the calendar in 2012 and some would say the most concentrated single-seater championship in the world. This year sees a major change in that the five rounds will be run back-to-back over consecutive weekends.

"This concentrated schedule is a first for TRS and comes in response to requests from European drivers and teams who are looking for racing away from the Northern Hemisphere winter months.

"This format also assists in containing the budgets for our local drivers. Just as drivers did in the days of the Tasman Series, a short sharp season with plenty of testing and racing should fill the grid well," said Thomlinson.

The tight schedule means just four weeks cover the opening round at Teretonga in Invercargill between January 12-15 and the finale, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Palmerston North, between February 9-12.

En route to the Grand Prix meeting, the Toyota Series will visit Invercargill, Timaru, Taupo and the new circuit at Hampton Downs, south of Auckland.

Australasian and International drivers will face 15 races within a month and, with the additional allocated testing and qualifying on track, they will cover at least 2500km of competitive running.

The Toyota Racing season will last just 32 days and the TRS cars will be either testing or racing on one of the five circuits for 20 of those days.

The success drivers from the 2011 season have had also boosted the international reputation of the TRS. "Mitch Evans, who won the TRS title for the last two seasons, is leading the competitive GP3 Championship, Englishman Alex Lynn is dominating the British 2.0-litre Renault series and young Russian driver Daniil Kvyat is third in the European Renault series.

"These drivers and others like Brazilian Lucas Foresti and Kiwi Richie Stanaway are showing the benefit of an intensive racing season in New Zealand in preparation for the start of testing for European championships in March," said Thomlinson.

The schedule

Round 1: January 12-15, Teretonga Park, Invercargill
Spirit of a Nation Cup

Round 2: January 19-22, Timaru Raceway, Timaru
Timaru Herald Trophy

Round 3: January 26-29, Taupo Motorsport Park
Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy

Round 4: February 2-5, Hampton Downs, Auckland
New Zealand Motor Cup

Round 5: February 9-12, Manfeild, Feilding
New Zealand Grand Prix
(Dan Higgins Trophy and Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup)

- NZ Herald

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