Penrose finally gets his chance to shine
Kiwi James Penrose is all set to fly the flag for title sponsor Castrol in Oceania’s most important single seater championship and will finally get his chance to show what he’s capable of in Toyota’s FT-60.
Twenty six year-old Penrose secured a fully funded drive in the 2022 New Zealand Grand Prix having won Castrol’s ‘New Zealand Grand Prix Ambassador competition this time last year.
The chance to compete was lost along with the Grand Prix due to Covid 19 restrictions but now a full season in New Zealand’s new-look Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship awaits the former National and South Island Formula Ford champion.
Rewind one year and an initial entry of 65 drivers entering the competition was refined to a short-list of seven by November 2021. All drivers had to demonstrate raw speed, a strong racing track record and the ambassadorial skills required by one of the sport’s major sponsors. Candidates were also assessed across a broad range of off-track variables, including generating social media engagement.
Penrose – at the time the reigning National and South Island Formula Ford champion and a multiple title holder in karts – excelled in all areas, but it was his conviction and passion to progress his racing career which caught the judging panel’s attention and that hasn’t been forgotten.
It’s been a relatively quiet 2022 for James, who has kept his hand in with a small amount of FF1600 racing in New Zealand. He joined the iconic Scottish Border Reivers Racing team in the United Kingdom earlier this year too, racing in the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy. He showed he had lost none of his skills in the category.
Now he’ll get his chance to shine in the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix and in the four other rounds of the championship which begins at Cromwell’s Highlands Motorsport Park next month. He cannot wait to take that battle to the opposition in a full Castrol liveried FT-60 run by the successful Kiwi Motorsport team.
“I’m immensely excited to compete in the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship,” he said. “The series has been world-renowned for years and I expect this season to be incredibly competitive as the field of drivers is very talented.
“Castrol is an iconic brand and synonymous with Motorsport, so I feel privileged to be partnered with them and Kiwi Motorsport for the season. Additionally, an enormous thank you goes to my personal sponsors for helping me make the grid for the season. My main focus will be to learn the car and extract speed out of myself and I hope to find my pace strong enough to compete with the front runners”.
Brand & Product Manager for Castrol Jan Willink says the company is delighted to be supporting James for the full season, adding: “Castrol are thrilled to have James representing the brand on-track at the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship. James has demonstrated he has the talent to compete among the best drivers in the world, and we’re confident that behind the wheel of the Castrol-branded Toyota FT-60 he’ll have the opportunity to showcase just that.”
The five round series – known formerly as the Castrol Toyota Racing Series – has recently gained status with the FIA, becoming the Oceania edition of its global Formula Regional programme and offering 18 Super Licence points for a championship win and points down to ninth place overall.
It has proved popular for junior formulae drivers over the years because of its unique timing at the start of the year – which is in the middle of the New Zealand summer and the northern hemisphere winter. It races at tracks in both the South Island and the North Island and this season includes the most southerly track of them all, Teretonga. Manfeild, Hampton Downs and Taupo as well as Highlands all feature on its schedule.