Toyota 86 Championship all set for massive season
A record number of drivers will take to the track this weekend for what could be the most fiercely contested Toyota 86 Championship since the inaugural season in 2013.
The 24 car field that begins the season at the Taupo International Motorsport Park includes multiple genuine championship prospects, numerous outstanding rookies, our exceptional female drivers, three drivers from Australia and a bigger Master class.
“The grid includes champions from karting, Formula Ford, the Australian Toyota 86 series, domestic New Zealand club racing and even SIM racing,” explained category manager Amanda Tollemache. “It’s really one of the highest quality fields that has been assembled for the championship, as well as the biggest.”
Picking a winner, however, is almost impossible.
Consistency has always been king in the championship and being at the sharp end of the field in every session at every round has always served drivers well. Last season Clay Osborne trailed champion Brock Gilchrist on wins, but maintained a high enough finishing record to be in with a shout of the title until the last lap of the final race.
“Being the outright fastest and winning races is certainly important in this championship, but being consistent is absolutely essential,” according to two-time champion Rowan Shepherd, who is also Driving Standards Observer again for this year’s events.
“To be that consistent means you need speed, race craft and a great team around you. You need to deliver in every session, in all conditions and you can’t afford any drama on track that might put you out of the points or even worse, out of the weekend.
“The prize at the end of it is genuine recognition of a major achievement in motorsport.”
From the New Zealand contingent in the entry list there are obvious candidates who are likely to shine. Multiple race winner Justin Allen is one as is Hunter Robb who was hugely impressive in his two outings in last year’s championship. Tayler Bryant is another ready for a big campaign and Formula Ford champion Hayden Bakkerus and Improved Production champion Ryan Denize are also determined to do well.
Talent from across the Tasman this season is also of an incredibly high standard. Toyota 86 Scholarship champion Lockie Bloxsom has proven his ability while Alice Buckley has also won in that championship.
John Penny and Christina Orr-West won’t be satisfied with just strong performances in the Master class. Add in last season’s runner up rookie Tom Bewley, Hampton Downs Academy winner Jackson Rooney, Bree Morris, Thomas Mallard and Cormac Murphy as genuine dark horses and the scene is set for a great season.