Chris van der Drift will return to the Toyota Racing Series to enter the 2021 New Zealand Grand Prix with the revived Tasman Motorsports Group team.
The 34-year-old, the 2008 International Formula Master champion, cameoed in TRS early in his career. His professional break came in Superleague Formula in 2010, but a huge crash not only ruled him out of title contention but also put him out of action.
He returned to SLF in 2011, then won in Auto GP before a switch to sportscars that has resulted in three Porsche Carrera Cup Asia titles.
“As a New Zealander I’ve never done a lot of racing here. I did some karting here, a little bit in Australia then went off to Europe,” said van der Drift.
“Up until this year, all I’ve done in New Zealand was one single-seater race here – the [NZ] Grand Prix in 2006, an A1GP round and two V8 SuperTourer rounds. COVID-19 has prevented a great deal more this year.”
The Steve and Christine Horne-owned Tasman team he joins was a Indy Lights title-winner and a CART race-winner in the 1990s.
“Just as much for me as for Steve and Christine, it’s a box I would like to tick. I’ve had just one shot at it in the past,” van der Drift added.
“Now to have another chance, I’m pumped. And clearly the record of Steve and Christine and what they have achieved speaks for itself.
“There are some very good drivers who are going to be out there too. I’m going for the win, this is my chance to do it, I feel good and I’m driving well. Once the entry list is finalised, I think it’s going to be quite a spectacle.”
New Zealand’s strict immigration restrictions in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic had looked to prevent international drivers entering TRS in 2021, prompting Toyota Gazoo Racing NZ into attracting more local drivers for the grand prix.
TRS regular Kenny Smith and Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen join van der Drift in the all-star entry list so far.
Tasman boss Steve Horne said: “My father George was on the original New Zealand GP committee back in the early 1950s. I watched my first grand prix back in 1957 when it was won by Reg Parnell, that’s probably what ignited my passion for the sport.
“We’ve won some big races in the US with some great world class drivers, but we’ve never entered the grand prix here. To win it, would be pretty special for Christine and I – it’s a bucket list race for us, we are excited to put a car on the grid.
“Toyota have done a fantastic job to bring this high level single-seater in the form of the FT-60 to New Zealand circuits and the work that Hampton Downs and SpeedWorks Events are doing to raise the profile of the event is to be commended.”
Van der Drift will use a retro livery harking back to a famous design modelled by Tasman in CART.