Toyota Racing Series organisers are retiring the FT40 race car this season and have started building a whole new race car for the 2015 season - the FT50.
The old car, and the series as a whole, has helped set some of New Zealand's best and brightest young drivers on the way to international recognition. They include Brendon Hartley, Mitch Evans, Earl Bamber, Richie Stanaway, Daniel Gaunt and Nick Cassidy.
Not only has the TRS championship launched Kiwi drivers on to the international Formula One stage, it has also given a leg-up to some overseas drivers who make the annual trip Downunder, in particular Daniil Kvyat with Toro Rosso and Sergey Sirotkin with Sauber.
Wanting to continue to attract young talent to the series, Toyota New Zealand unveiled key components of its new single-seater at the 2014 TRS awards evening in Palmerston North. The car features the latest FIA Formula Three safety standards, including high cockpit sides, helmet protection, removable safety seat, additional strengthening in the main chassis and front and rear crash structures.
The car represented a major commitment by Toyota to the development of the next generation of New Zealand drivers, said general manager John Fowke.
"As TRS graduates prepare to enter Formula One, Le Mans and other professional global series we recognise the crucial role TRS has played over the past decade and the need to continue providing a championship where young drivers can advance their career and develop their talents."
The new car has been designed and manufactured by Italian constructor Tatuus. It features contemporary styling with a long sculpted nose, wider track suspension, dual front shock absorbers and a steering-wheel-mounted paddle shift operating a six-speed Sadev transaxle gearbox.
"The FT50 racer will be an exciting prospect for aspiring Kiwi racing drivers as well as the young international drivers who will look to race here in TRS. The car will feature up-to-the-minute design and technology and align with many of the established global series already in operation across the globe," said TRS category manager Barrie Thomlinson. The new cars will hit the track using the existing TRS engine, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder production based Toyota unit, which has been built and developed in New Zealand specifically for the racing series. The engine runs on E85 ethanol-blend fuel and produces 160kW.
"The new car is exciting stuff that's for sure and Barrie has worked closely with Tatuus knowing what we wanted out of it," said motorsport and events manager Steve Boyce.
"We've done really well out of the old car and want to make the new car last as long as we can as well. There are a lot of innovations on the car and we'll have a look at the engine in a couple of year's time. We didn't want to bite off too much at this time and the current engine works very well.
"The new car's a bit longer and we don't have an F1 nose either."
The reaction of drivers and teams to the new car was positive at the unveiling, and a completed car is expected to begin testing in April and May in preparation for the delivery of the production racecars mid-year.