Matthew Payne, one of New Zealand’s top karters, is the first driver to publicly commit to contesting the full 2021 Toyota Racing Series season.
Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen and New Zealand motorsport icon Kenny Smith had already been announced as planned entries for the Race of Champions-branded New Zealand Grand Prix at the Hampton Downs season opener, but no driver had yet to confirm they would participate in the entirety of the season.
This year Payne started testing with M2 Competition in the previous generation car used by TRS, while also competing in shifter karts in Europe. He made his name known in single-seater circles when he entered the April Isolation Dallara F3 Esports series during the first run of national lockdowns across the globe and finished sixth in a grid of car racing stars.
“TRS will give me valuable experience in a highly professional and competitive series,” said the 18-year-old.
“That’s experience I will take into Australia next year where I will race for Earl Bamber Motorsport with the support of Porsche New Zealand in the 2021 Porsche Carrera Cup [Australia] series. Next year’s going to be big for me and I can’t wait to get started with the TRS campaign on January 22.”
The 2021 TRS season kicks off at Hampton Downs on January 22-24, with round two at the same circuit a week later. A week-long break includes a test for international drivers, before the Manfeild season finale on February 12-14.
“Testing has gone well and I am starting to get the feel of the wings and slicks. There are only three rounds in the series so for the drivers there will be no time to ease into it.
“All I can say is that it will be all go right from the start, so it will be worth watching for sure.”
There is also a possibility that TRS will run non-championship races at Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix in March.