The Toyota Racing Series has been a stepping stone for some young New Zealand racers, and of late an even bigger number of overseas drivers are making the trip Downunder during the European and the American off season.
Former TRS drivers are now racing in just about every category overseas, from Formula One to sports cars. In an effort to help even more young Kiwis on the road to motorsport fame, Toyota Racing New Zealand is getting involved in karting. Next month it will back the KartSport New Zealand National Schools' Championship in Palmerston North.
The meeting will be at the KartSport Manawatu club's Manawatu Toyota Raceway on July 12 and 13. Convenor John Paddy is expecting more than 120 school-age karters to make the trip to fight for school and individual class honours.
"The annual schools' event is one of the biggest events on the national karting calendar and this is the first time it's being held in the Manawatu," Paddy said.
"Palmerston North has long been one of the strongholds of karting in New Zealand and host school Palmerston North Boys' High is the only school to have won the National Secondary Schools title three times."
The Toyota Racing Series is New Zealand's leading single-seater racing car category with drivers from around the world flying in each summer to take on New Zealand's best in a five-round, consecutive weekend series which culminates in the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manawatu motor racing circuit Manfeild.
Since its inception in 2005 a steady stream of talented young karters have passed through the Toyota Racing Series, and Toyota New Zealand's motorsport and events manager, Steve Boyce, says supporting the schools event in its first visit to Palmerston North made sense.
"If karting is the first step on the motor racing ladder we'd like to think of the Toyota Racing Series as the second if you want to go the single-seater route," Boyce said. "And our new Toyota Finance 86 Championship as the alternative if you prefer tin tops."
Talented young New Zealand karters have already used the Toyota Racing Series as a springboard to a career on the world stage.
Among them are three-time former schools' class champion Nick Cassidy who has now won the Toyota Racing Series twice and the New Zealand Grand Prix three times; fellow former series and New Zealand Grand Prix winner Mitch Evans; and New Zealand Grand Prix winner Earl Bamber.
A special feature of the annual event is the Bruce McLaren KartSport Awards presented in association with the Bruce McLaren Trust.
Each year two awards are offered and this year the awards, and prize of a drive in a Toyota Finance 86 Championship TR 86 racecar,
will go to the winners of the two most popular eligible classes at the event.
However, the winners will only get their prizes after having presented a project on the career, achievements and values demonstrated by one of New Zealand's greatest racing drivers, Bruce McLaren.