A record five-strong international entry and race commitments from the current Formula Ford points leader and the defending NZV8 champion driver promise unparalleled racing excitement as New Zealand’s premier single-seater racing championship roars back into action.
The Toyota Racing Series has announced a multiple-race entry from Adderley Fong, the rookie driver for the Chinese A1GP team, beginning this weekend at Timaru’s Levels International Raceway.
Hong Kong-based Fong has extensive experience in “wings and slicks” cars but has not raced on New Zealand tracks before. He is racing with Trevor Sheumack’s European Technique team, which also runs top Australians Scott Pye and Nathan Antunes.
In addition to these three international drivers, two United Kingdom drivers will race in the three round “series within a series” for the TRS International Trophy: William Buller, of Northern Ireland, and Will Stevens, a young British racer who has already come to the attention of a Formula One team.
Pye and Antunes dominated racing at the first round of the 2009 Toyota Racing Series, held at Christchurch in late 2009. Pye is a rookie in the series, while Antunes ran in 2008; the pair are racing with the support of Andy Neale, himself a former Formula Ford front-runner and Formula One mechanic. Neale guided Christchurch’s Andy Knight to his 2008 series title win.
All five internationals will contest three races this weekend at Timaru, which is the first round of the international trophy: a 14-lap race, a 10-lap race and the 20 lap feature race for the Timaru Herald Trophy.
Stanaway and MacIntyre are making their competition debuts in the wings and slicks class while Waite contested last year’s Hamilton 400 street race, showing strong pace in the tricky confines of the street circuit.
Ranged against the new arrivals are a group of competitors now in their second year with the series, and a strong entry from series rookies stepping up from New Zealand Formula Ford.
Mitch Cunningham, Auckland; Sam MacNeill, Palmerston North; and 2007-2008 Rookie of the Year Michael Burdett, Auckland, lead the “experienced hands” back for another run at the title.
Beginning their first season are Taumarunui’s Daniel Jileson; Keeley Pudney of Rotorua; Alastair Wootten, Auckland; and 2008 NZ Formula Ford Champion John Whelan from Dunedin.
The Toyota Racing Series cars will be on track at Timaru’s Levels International Raceway on Friday for free practice, on-track sessions that let the teams set up the cars for the specific conditions they face at Timaru. Qualifying and one 12-lap race take place on Saturday and the 10-lap race and feature race are held on Sunday.
At stake in the feature race is the Timaru Herald Cup, while all three races offer drivers valuable opportunities to secure points for the International Trophy and the series itself, which includes the 2009 New Zealand Grand Prix. The next round of the international trophy series is next weekend at Invercargill.
Toyota devised TRS as a way to identify rising New Zealand race drivers and help them develop their talent before they head offshore.
Already, this “incubator” role is producing true talent, with leading graduates now racing in Europe, the UK and the USA.
Perhaps the highest profile of these is Brendon Hartley, third overall this year in Formula 3; and Earl Bamber, who now heads the New Zealand A1GP team’s championship challenge while also competing in the Asian GP2 series.
Hartley was the youngest driver ever to win a TRS race and is part of the Red Bull driver development programme; Bamber set fastest laps that stand as outright lap records at five of the 2007-2008 rounds, won the international series in the 2008-2009 season and won every race at the inaugural Hamilton 400 street race – the first time the TRS cars had ever run in the brutal confines of a street circuit.
The “incubator” role of TRS opens up some opportunities this year in New Zealand’s premier single-seater championship as leading drivers from the 2008 season take the next step in their careers. With 2008 champion Andy Knight now racing V8s and International Trophy winner Earl Bamber stepping up to A1GP and other single-seater drives, the way is clear for a new battle to begin.
Racing puts focus on environmental innovation
The Toyota Racing Series enters its fifth season as New Zealand’s premier single-seater category this year, and once more the premier “Tier 1” summer of motorsport is primed for some torrid on-track action as the best and brightest of New Zealand’s rising track stars battle for the championship.
The series is also the showcase for a Toyota-driven innovation that brings an environmental focus to New Zealand motorsport.
Drivers race identical “wings and slicks” cars with production-based Toyota four cylinder engines specially tuned for the E85 biofuel used by the series.
The TRS cars switched to biofuel at the start of the 2008 season with an immediate and significant reduction in harmful emissions. The change was made as part of Toyota’s global commitment to reducing carbon emissions and have continued to use the fuel, which is a blend of 15 per cent pump petrol and 85 per cent whey-based ethanol.
Throughout the 2008 series, engines in all cars ran cleaner and drivers reported small but noticeable improvements in mid-range torque and top-end power. No other New Zealand Tier 1 or 2 race category uses biofuel.