Motorsport: There's no place like home

By Matthew Hansen

Taylor Cockerton is right on the heels of the international talent after two rounds in the Toyota Racing Series. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Taylor Cockerton is right on the heels of the international talent after two rounds in the Toyota Racing Series. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Taylor Cockerton could well be a name to remember. After two rounds of the Toyota Racing Series, the Bombay Hills-based racer is sixth in the championship standings.

Of those ahead of him, three drivers are linked to Formula 1 teams and one is a son of three-time Formula 1 champion.

This despite Cockerton having not raced regularly since his debut in TRS last season. But, heading in to this weekend's round at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, he wants more.

"We've had a bit of an up and down season. It's been quite a rollercoaster, to be honest," he told the Herald. "I'm definitely happy that we're genuinely in that top six bracket now."

The 19-year-old's season has included three top-five finishes, and no finish lower than 11th - something only three drivers on the grid can claim. And he's unlucky to not have a race win on his list of 2017 achievements.

Starting from pole position in the second race of the season at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Cockerton dominated the race and led a lights-to-flag victory, only to be penalised for jumping the start.

"At the time, I didn't even know I was creeping, I was just trying to bring the clutch back slightly from the stop to try and get that perfect getaway," he said.

"The frustrating thing was that it was called so late, after we went through the emotions of the podium. I don't think it would've been quite as heart-sinking if they had told us straight away that we were under investigation.

"To be honest, nothing will take away the feeling of coming first, and I know in my heart that we won that race on my own merit and my own pace. I don't think it'll be the last chance for us to go for it again."

Unlike many of his international rivals on the championship grid, his sights aren't set on Formula 1. Instead, the former New Zealand Formula Ford champion's aim is to push for a drive in Australia's Supercars championship.

While the move doesn't seem a natural career step, Cockerton wouldn't be the first to journey down this path, with current V8 drivers Scott Pye and reigning series champion Shane van Gisbergen also TRS graduates.

"It's very expensive to do even the junior categories [in Supercars] but the fact that the series is close to home means that if I start doing the job here, then they'll notice me. The goal is to get my foot in the door," he said.

"The reality is, we don't have the budget to break into something in Europe.

"We're going out with an open mind. If we have offers from Europe or Asia or anywhere to get a sponsored drive, we'll champ at the bit to get it.

"If I'm getting paid to race cars, that's mission accomplished for me.

"I've seen a lot of guys pretty much waste their budget trying to crack it over in Europe and America, where it's just so much more expensive."

Approaching this weekend's Hampton Downs event, his home venue and one he is familiar with, Cockerton is confident of claiming a result. But the teenager knows the task won't be easy.

"I've done a lot of mileage there [Hampton Downs]. I spent a lot of time there in the off-season working with Trass Family Motorsport, so I'm there pretty much all the time," he said.

"I've raced there in Formula First, Formula Ford, we've had some really good success there over the years. And I genuinely really enjoy the track; it's quite quick and quite high speed. So often the top 15 are less than four-tenths of a second apart. There's nothing in it.

"I'm definitely feeling quite confident knowing that our bogey rounds are behind us, and we're about to head back to some more familiar territory.

"I think this year, you've easily got 10, 11, 12 guys that can challenge for wins. I definitely think this is one of the tougher years that TRS has seen."

- NZ Herald

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