The New Zealand V8 racing scene has heated up again with the announcement of the new national V8 championship series - this one open to Toyota and other makes as well as the traditional Holdens and Fords.
MotorSport New Zealand's move is designed to counter the recent breakaway group, the V8 SuperTourers, currently running a series competing against the old NZV8 championship - contested only by Holdens and Falcons.
The new series will be known as the Gold Star V8 Touring Car series. It will begin next year and has been opened up to allow other V8 engine manufacturers to join the fray. A number of Toyota dealerships have expressed interest and one has already signed up.
The V8 SuperTourers have stolen a decent amount of thunder from the long-standing NZV8s of late with solid crowds turning up for their first three events.
However, the problem still remains that New Zealand may not be big enough to sustain two domestic V8 championships. With the introduction of another manufacturer's engine and body shape shell, the old championship at least has a fighting chance of being the one to survive.
For the first time in 12 years of Australasian V8 racing, a third V8 manufacturer will take on the might of the Fords and Holdens. The 2012 Camry-skinned car will use a race-proven 5.0-litre engine developed by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) in America for Grand-Am endurance racing, sourced by Toyota New Zealand.
The four-cam, four valve per cylinder engines are purpose-built competition units with a motorsport pedigree that includes the Daytona 24 Hour race.
Toyota New Zealand is not entering the championship as a manufacturer but is happy to see the Camry join Ford and Holden on the grid. Paeroa-based Richards Team Motorsport has announced a two-car team and is the competition division of Tony Richards Toyota, managed by Stephen Richards and chief engineer Grant Lowe.
"It's been work in progress for a while but we're really excited that we can get on and build a car now," said Richards. "We intend to have two cars and one is under way now and Martin Short will be driving that one. There's no one in the mix for the second yet but we've got most of our ducks in a row.
"The engine Toyota NZ has sourced is a little beauty and we're very, very happy with that. We should be able to wheel the car out around the end of October and have it running."
Others are also interested. Albany Toyota has been running a Ford NZV8 for a number of years, emblazoned with Toyota signage. They can now go racing in a Camry with a Toyota race engine.
Toyota New Zealand must have faith in the engine and car-build as they pride themselves on reliability. However, parity issues have long been a bone of contention in the V8s scene. Toyota's engine is very different from the less cutting-edge pushrod GM versions and may raise the parity issue again.
However, another manufacturer could boost interest in the NZV8s championship in the same way that Nissan's entry to V8 Supercars has across the Tasman.By Eric Thompson