Toyota Racing Series sets 2017 field

Friday 30th December, 2016 - 6:57am


Brendon Leitch, who finished third last summer, is the most experienced of the Kiwi drivers

Twenty drivers representing 11 countries will line-up for the opening round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series starting at Ruapuna near Christchurch from January 13-15.

There are half a dozen 16-year-olds in the field, including home town debutant Marcus Armstrong.

Armstrong, one of three Kiwis in the field, has recently been selected for the Ferrari Driver Academy which is the Formula One team’s elite driver program and aims to assist young drivers toward the highest categories of motor racing.

The others are Cromwell based Brendon Leitch who finished third in the championship last year and Pukekohe’s Taylor Cockerton, who was ninth overall last summer in his debut season.

The other 16-year-olds include Dutch teenager Richard Verschoor, a member of the Red Bull Junior team which grooms drivers all the way through to its Formula One operation.

France’s karting champion Jean Baptiste Simmenauer and Keyvan Andres from the United States also join the field as 16-year-olds which the youngest age drivers can compete in an international motor racing series.

British driver Enaam Ahmed who was winning European and World karting titles at a younger age than three times Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Australian Luis Leeds are the last two 16- year-olds in the field.

At the other end of the spectrum are two 26-year-olds, Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin and Shelby Blackstock from Kentucky, who has had two seasons in Indy Lights.

Two Brazilians are making New Zealand their home for the five rounds, 15- race series, which the international drivers are all using as a precursor to competition in the northern hemisphere during 2017.

The 18-year-olds Pedro Piquet, the youngest son of three times World Champion, Nelson Piquet is back for his second full season in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, while Christian Hahn is making his debut.

London-based Jehan Daruvala, who was runner-up to Lando Norris in the series 12 months ago and Ameya Vaidyanathan are also part of the full grid.

Among the three 17-year-olds are Canadian Kami Laliberte, the son of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, Harry Hayek from Australia and French teenager Thomas Neubauer.

The 19-year-old Ferdinand Habsburg, whose grandfather gave up the rights to the Austrian throne, is returning for a third season.

The other American in the field is 19-year-old Kory Enders while 20-year-old Thomas Randle, who did the full series two years ago completes the field.

All drivers will use the same Tatuus single-seater, powered by a 1.8 litre Toyota engine which produces around 160 kWs running on an 85 percent ethanol bio-fuel.

The cars are all fitted with the same Michelin tyres, gearbox, suspension and brakes to provide healthy competition and ensure as much close racing as possible.

The Castrol Toyota Racing Series will follow a familiar weekend format consisting of free practice each Friday, qualifying and race one on Saturday and two races on Sunday at each event.

2017 TRS schedule

January 14/15: Lady Wigram Trophy, Ruapuna Park, Christchurch
January 21/22: Spirit of a Nation Cup, Teretonga, Invercargill
January 28/29: New Zealand Motor Cup, Hampton Downs, North Waikato
February 4/5: Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo
February 11/12: New Zealand Grand Prix, Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild