Expect to see a maximum grid contesting the five-round Toyota Racing Series here in January and February next year.
Series co-coordinators Barrie and Louise Thomlinson have just returned from an annual trip to Europe “prospecting” for drivers for the 2017 championship, where all drivers use identical single-seater racing cars to provide close competition.
“No contracts are signed yet but we had verbal confirmation from some drivers and very positive discussions with others about competing in TRS in 2017” said Thomlinson.
The series starts at Ruapuna in Christchurch over the weekend of 14 -15 January and concludes with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Palmerston North on 11-12 February.
“Several of last season’s drivers are likely to return again, so as with previous years the grid will be a mixture of first time rookies and drivers who are returning for a second or third time,” said Thomlinson.
“Based on these early discussions we are confident that we will have a strong line-up to again provide close, competitive racing.”
The Thomlinsons attended the Norisring round of the European FIA Formula Three Championship in Germany and a round of the European Formula Renault Championship at Monza in Italy to talk to drivers and teams.
“The Toyota Racing Series name is well known in Europe with the numbers of TRS drivers who have gone onto the top levels of the sport growing each year,” said Thomlinson, “by showing our faces in Europe each year we ensure we remain visible to a wide range of prospective drivers”.
International based TRS graduates performing well in Europe this year include Canadian Lance Stroll, the 2015 TRS champion who leads the FIA European F3 Championship, and Italian Raffaele Marciello, who raced here in 2012 and currently leads the GP2 Series.
Kiwis Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber, Mitch Evans, Shane Van Gisbergen, Richie Stanaway and Nick Cassidy all competed in TRS on their way to international success.
The Toyota Racing Series will again feature a total of 15 races – three at each round – starting with one on Saturday afternoon, followed by a Sunday morning event and the feature trophy race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.
TRS provides an opportunity for visiting drivers to get the equivalent of several months’ testing, practice, qualifying and racing in just over a month, setting themselves up for their northern hemisphere campaign.