The popular New Zealand international Toyota Racing Series (TRS) this week launched the third version of its race car, the FT-60.

The TRS has for the past 15 years been a springboard for foreign and home-grown drivers to go on and make their names internationally.

Chief among the Kiwi contingent have been the likes of Brendon Hartley, Shane van Gisbergen, Nick Cassidy, Earl Bamber, Mitch Evans and young guns Marcus Armstrong and Liam Lawson.

For evidence of the importance of the TRS in the career of an overseas driver, just look at this season's Formula One line-up.

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Daniil Kvyat, Lando Norris and Lance Stroll all cut their competitive teeth in the TRS on New Zealand's most iconic tracks. A further 15 former TRS drivers have tested F1 cars or contested a grand prix.

"Our championship also offers what we believe to be the best value for money of all global junior formulae in terms of track time per dollar," said TRS manager Nicolas Caillol.

Designed like the previous two Series cars by Italian manufacturer Tatuus, the chassis is similar to that used in other global junior formulae, but will use a new engine that will produce 270 horsepower (200 kW), making it one of the best performing junior cars on the FIA's recognised pathway to F1.

That pathway includes four tiers of racing machinery with FIA Formula 2, the official feeder to F1, sitting as the Tier 1 category.

On the ladder of performance, the TRS car sits in Tier 3 along with categories such as the FIA Formula Regional European Championship, the Formula Renault Eurocup and the W Series.

"The new car is now much the same as a number of formulae in Europe, so drivers can now come to the series and get race time in a car that will be almost the same as what they will race back in their respective championships.

"In the past, the car was designed for New Zealand tracks, but now it's international.

"While the new FT-60 develops more power, it will not be dropping lap times by two seconds or more. The car is quite a bit heavier than the previous models, so we needed more power to make it at least as quick as in the past and the increased downforce will make it quicker in the corners," said Caillol.

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Although drivers will like the new car, more importantly to them all is that the championship will offer drivers up to seven Super Licence points during the European and American off-season. This means drivers can bank points towards an F1 licence as well as gaining significant track time in preparation for other major single seater championships.

"With the Asian series now having a reduced number of races, it makes the TRS even more attractive for overseas drivers wanting to gain Super Licence points," he said.

"The Series is like a summer camp where drivers can get an intense, compacted racing experience before they head back to other championships.

"It is a globally relevant car and a globally relevant championship for any serious young racing driver and we hope to attract even more up and coming stars looking to make a step up in their career," said Caillol.

The 2020 season will run across five consecutive weekends starting in January, with events in the North and South Islands.

Toyota FT-60 specs

FIA Tier: Three
Chassis: All composite, manufactured by Tatuus, Italy
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder, turbocharger, Direct and Port injection systems
Power: 270 bhp/200 kW
Weight: 600kg (dry)
Top Speed: 250km/h
Gearbox: Six speed Sadev sequential with paddle shift
Tyres: Front: 230/560 Rear: 280/580