August 10, 2020
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand is seeing unprecedented interest in its 2020-2021 Best Bars Championship from a wide range of motorsports.
The Toyota 86 series in New Zealand has been acknowledged for several seasons now as the premier domestic saloon car category for drivers to test their ability against the country’s best up and coming drivers. Now with Covid-19 changing the motorsport landscape a number of racing drivers are now lining up to take on the challenge of Toyota 86 racing.
Several top Kiwi motorsport names have already been testing and assessing the Toyota 86 championship series ahead of the 2019-2020 final round, a few more cars have been sold for next season and more drivers have confirmed their entry for Hampton Downs in September where organisers are aiming for a field of 18 cars.
The strong interest in the championship ahead of the final round and indeed the 2020-2021 season is coming not just from the traditional up and coming racers looking for the next step up on the ladder in their motorsport careers, but also much more established names. Drivers unable to race overseas, drivers from other motorsport codes, masters and young guns are all currently evaluating Toyota’s popular televised and professionally supported 86 championship as part of their ongoing plans in a disrupted motorsport world.
Dayle ITM supported drivers Christina Orr-West and international Lamborghini and F3 racer Brendon Leitch were both on hand testing 86s at recent test days at Hampton Downs and it is likely at least one will compete full time in the category next season. Orr West – arguably the most talented female racer New Zealand has produced – will definitely race a Dayle ITM-backed car in the September season finale.
“The times came down and we were all pretty happy with everything so it was great to be able to secure an entry for the final round with the view of competing in the whole championship next season,” she explained. “I have to thank Dayle ITM of course. They are long-time supporters of myself and motorsport and this is only happening because of their commitment during what is a very challenging time for everyone in motorsport, no matter where they are. It should be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to getting to the sharp end and mixing it with some of our top up and coming racers.”
Also confirmed for the final round of this year’s championship after a successful two days of testing is motocross rider Seton Head. A works Kawasaki performer with an excellent track record in the sport at home and abroad, Cambridge’s Seton is keen to do some racing with his father and reckons the Toyota 86 series is the perfect way to get his head around the switch from two wheels to four and from dirt to tarmac.
“I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was four years old and it has only really been in the last six months that I’ve become very interested in cars,” he said. “My dad races Toyotas and I’ve wanted to race him for some time; this is a great way to do that and a great stepping stone to get into circuit racing. I am hoping it will go well at Hampton Downs and I’m definitely excited to be on the grid.”
Another notable name out testing was Pukekohe’s Matthew Payne – who has been blazing a highly successful trail on the European karting scene in recent seasons. He is now back in New Zealand following the pandemic disruption and on the lookout for something to drive. On the pace almost immediately, the 18 year old has tested a few cars since lockdown ended and tracks were opened up again and has also been seen taking on some of the big guns in the various E-Sports series that have been a feature of 2020’s unique motorsport year so far.
“I’ve been karting for more than ten years and have raced in Europe in the KZ2 category in major events, in Italy, German, Belgium and other FIA meetings and Euro series.
“I’ve been practicing a lot in the go kart. I was pretty keen to try the 86 even though I haven’t got much car experience. Coming out to do some laps has really given me a boost. Getting the experience of handling the car on the edge has been a lot of fun. I was pretty surprised with how comfortable it was and it was a lot of fun. I’d love to do some racing at some stage.”
Category Manager Geoff Short was delighted with the interest, commenting: “With domestic motorsport and what it has to offer very much on the radar of a wide variety of drivers at various stages of their careers, it’s very heartening they are looking at the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, which offers the best platform for any race driver to come and test their skills against the best young talent coming through New Zealand motorsport.
“Toyota New Zealand has invested significantly to create the best touring car competition in New Zealand with outstanding TV and media coverage providing a professional environment for drivers to attract sponsors. As part of this Toyota New Zealand is giving away two new road cars as part of the prize fund for this season.”