Motorsport: Piquet's son to contest five-race NZ series

By Eric Thompson

Like his father Nelson, Pedro Piquet began his motorsport career in karts and has graduated to open wheelers.
Like his father Nelson, Pedro Piquet began his motorsport career in karts and has graduated to open wheelers.

The Toyota Racing Series' international standing continues to grow with the announcement of another famous father and son pairing heading to New Zealand for the series starting in January.

A few years ago former Formula One world champion Damon Hill brought his son Josh Hill here for the TRS championship, and next year three-time world F1 champion Nelson Piquet will bring his son Pedro to contest the five-race series. Brazilian Pedro (14) will join the 2013 TRS championship-winning team M2 Competition.

"It just goes to show that the Toyota Racing Series has worldwide appeal when Formula One champions recognise it's somewhere to bring their family to," said Bob McMurray who spent 33 years with the McLaren F1 team.

"Obviously these F1 champions want their sons to be in the right place at the right time of their careers. I think it's a great validity for the series that they want their sons to learn here.

"You can't forget either, that it's not only world champions who send their sons here, the likes of the Ferrari Young Drivers Academy and well respected Formula Three teams also send their young driver down here."

The 1981, 1983 and 1987 F1 world champion made his debut in karting in the 1970s.

Piquet passed on his early passion for motorsport to his eldest son, 27-year-old Nelsinho, who raced Formula One with Renault in 2008 and 2009 and is now in Nascar. Pedro started in karts before migrating to Formula Three in Brazil.

"My goal for TRS 2014 is to be competitive against the other drivers and gain more experience driving formula cars," said Pedro.

"Nowhere else in the world can you do 15 races in five weeks, so TRS is the best championship for drivers who are looking to further their knowledge and experience."

Series organisers are preparing for an onslaught of rookie talent as well as several drivers who will return for their second season of TRS championship, which kicks off at Teretonga, Invercargill, on January 10.

Some of these young racers are already aligned with motor racing's leading teams and are drawn to New Zealand by the prospect of five weeks' competitive racing, which offers up to 3000km behind the wheel as well as the chance to win the first FIA Grand Prix title of the season - the New Zealand Grand Prix.

"Nowhere else in the world do drivers get so much racing in such a short period of time," said McMurray.

"It's a steep learning curve for the international drivers and a big test with full-on racing and testing on tracks they've not been on before.

"It's probably the hardest school they can go through at this time of their careers."

TRS category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the series has earned a strong reputation over 10 years and has established its place in the global motor racing calendar.

"This is something that we can all be immensely proud of," he said.

"It has taken a consistent well-managed approach over the years to firmly establish the series on the radar for young up-and-coming racing drivers. Attracting our second Formula One world champion father and son is further proof of the respect this series now enjoys the world over.

"Teams from around the globe are now encouraging their drivers to come to New Zealand to maximise their off-season preparation. Drivers who have competed in the Toyota Racing Series have been making their mark in a range of European championships this year, notching up podiums and race wins as well as challenging for major titles, which is fantastic."

Five New Zealand-based TRS teams will field 22 drivers for the 2014 championship. Thirteen countries will be represented at five circuits over five consecutive weekends, including Teretonga, Timaru's Levels Raceway, the Highlands Motorsport Park at Cromwell and Hampton Downs in the northern Waikato before heading to Manfeild for the 59th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix.

- NZ Herald

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