Formula One Grand Prix Racing remains the pinnacle of motorsport in the world today, and 17 international young guns and three talented young kiwis will come to the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park over the weekend of February 4 and 5 hoping to take a giant step towards a career in the sport’s top class.
The Castrol Toyota Racing Series is unique in the world of motorsport today, providing an opportunity for Northern Hemisphere drivers to come down off season and sharpen their skills against their main opposition as a ‘warm up’ for the summer seasons they have ahead in 2017. With identical, state-of-the art machines that to all intents and purposes are just mini Formula One cars, the racing is not only close, it is fierce.
No fewer than three current Formula One teams have representation form their junior ranks racing at Taupo in what is the fourth and penultimate round of the series for the Denny Hulme Trophy. After Taupo, the field heads to Manfeild Autocourse for what is the first Grand Prix of the 2017 motor sport season, our own NZ Grand Prix, which is one of only two events outside of the Formula One calendar permitted to call its event a ‘Grand Prix’. So there’s plenty at stake for the teams and the drivers.
Ferrari, in the form of Kiwi racer Marcus Armstrong, Red Bull Racing with Richard Verschoor and Sahara Force India with Jehan Daruvala, are all represented in the 20 car field and it is the Red Bull ace, the next flying Dutchman likely to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Max Verstappen, who has set the series alight with some stellar performances and incredible consistency. Add in a few other notables, including Pedro Piquet, the son of three time F1 legend Nelson, and all the ingredients are there for a classic racing weekend.
As well as Armstrong in the Kiwi contingent, there is also Brendon Leitch and Taylor Cockerton, who have both shown flashes of brilliance against their world class opposition and who both have experience in the series and of course, considerable experience on New Zealand race tracks. Watch out for them as they take on the world and aim to attract the attention of the world’s top teams, who view the Castrol Toyota racing Series as a benchmark for measuring and identifying tomorrow’s world champions.
And if that wasn’t enough for fans, there is a packed schedule of racing to support the international racers. The Ssangyong Actyon ute series boasts a full field of utes at every round in which it races and for sheer entertainment value in motorsport, there is nothing better as up to 30 drivers try, somehow, to find an advantage in a nose to tail field of identical vehicles.
Continuing the single seater theme of the meeting, the national championship fields of Formula 1600 and Formula First also race over the Taupo weekend. These are the classes where the likes of Scott Dixon, Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy and Richie Stanaway all cut their teeth and the level of the young talent on show remains exceptional. Exceptional Pukekohe racer Liam Lawson will be hoping to continue his winning ways in Formula 1600 and he too will be hoping to catch the eye of some of the bigger racing teams at the meeting.
Adding a bit of historic flavour to the meeting is the Kumho Tyres Pre-65 field, which brings together some of the most iconic saloon and muscle cars racers of the Sixties and Seventies. And last, but by no means least, the Castrol BMW series comes to the Speed Works Motorsport Championship for the first time – and for this weekend in Taupo it brings is three classes – the hugely popular E30s, the 2 Litre category and the amazing BMW Open category, which boasts some genuinely brilliant machinery.