Halliday and Gaunt join TRS field
Former Team New Zealand A1GP driver Matt Halliday will step back into an open-wheeler racing car when the international section of the Toyota Racing Series resumes at Ruapuna on January 4-6.
Also joining the three-meeting international series will be double champion Daniel Gaunt, and an 18-year-old from Iceland, Kristjan Einar.
The three make their debut in the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting at Ruapuna.
Gaunt and Halliday are currently racing in the New Zealand Porsche GT3 series.
Further New Zealand and international drivers are expected to confirm their entries in coming weeks, and Toyota Racing Series manager, Barrie Thomlinson, says the grid for the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild looks likely to have 20 to 22 cars.
“We have two leading Kiwi drivers confirmed to do battle with the series regulars, and between Daniel and Matt there’s going to be a heck of a battle,” he says.
“Daniel and Matt are keen rivals on-track and the international series gives them a unique chance to measure their speed against the next crop of quick young Kiwi racers.
“Current series leaders Andy Knight, Nic Jordan and Sam MacNeill will have to watch out for these guys.”
Other racers showing potential to hit the front include Mitch Cunningham, Ben Harford and Dominic Storey, all of whom had problems at the first round that tended to mask their pace and ability.
Thomlinson says overseas drivers also see TRS as an opportunity to gain valuable competition experience in what is traditionally the quiet season in the northern hemisphere.
Australian Nathan Antunes has made a commitment to run in the full TRS series.
Thomlinson says Icelandic driver Einar is a leading kart racer with a lot of miles in Formula BMW.
He’s a recent signing to race Formula 3 for the respected Carlin Motorsport, where Kiwi Brendon Hartley will also race next year.
“(Einer) is down here to get off-season competition experience and to race unfamiliar tracks, all valuable experience heading into F3 in the UK,” says Thomlinson.
Thomlinson says the presence of international drivers will generate awareness of the TRS in the northern hemisphere.
“The key difference between TRS and the days of Formula Pacific is the international drivers are coming here on their way up, not as established stars. They see the series as a way to hone their race-craft while their rivals are locked into on-track testing programmes in the northern hemisphere winter.
“There’s no question, nine races in our summer is more valuable to an emerging driver than any number of kilometres of testing in the UK or Europe.”
Einar and Halliday will be run by new team Triple X Motorsport, with Halliday confirmed for the Lady Wigram Cup and the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild. Triple X began the season contesting the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup, and the foray into TRS is a diversification for the team which will rely heavily on Halliday’s extensive international motorsport experience.
Gaunt returns to TRS with the support of Lyall Williamson’s International Motorsport operation.
The international series includes the Lady Wigram Trophy, the 51st New Zealand Grand Prix to be held at Manfeild on January 13, and the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race at the A1GP meet to be held at Taupo a week later.