The Toyota Racing Series won’t go ahead next year, but its cars will be used once again for the New Zealand Grand Prix. Now we know how that’s going to take place, here’s a rundown of what’s planned
New Zealand feels far away from most of the world, and that’s particularly been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic with its strict travel restrictions preventing international visitors from entering the country in the vast majority of cases.
In motorsport terms, it’s shrunk the Toyota Racing Series from being the most popular and highly esteemed winter series in the world to being a depleted locals-only championship in 2021 and now a one-off event in ’22 with no points to be scored.
However the lack of a series structure to build around has freed the organisers and the Hampton Downs circuit to experiment with the format of the event that will go ahead: the 2022 New Zealand Grand Prix and Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup.
To prepare the drivers who will be competing, all native to New Zealand, there will be test days dotted between now and the event’s planned February 10-13 date in both the current TRS car and its predecessor.
Young drivers from sportscars, Formula Ford 1600 and karting are set to be in action at Hampton Downs next week on October 12/13, then potentially again in November and December before the 2021/22 seasons kick off for several championships down under.
Drivers from the South Island will get to drive the Toyota-powered Tatuus FT-60 at Ruapuna on January 18/19, and confirmed entrants coming from both of the country’s islands will test at Hampton Downs on February 2/3.
The grand prix will take place on Hampton Downs’ National layout, and the first two days of the event will consist of four sessions split into pre-event testing and free practice.
The final practice session takes place on Saturday morning, before drivers go into an afternoon of qualifying.
There will be three segments to qualifying, with Q1 setting the grid for the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup. Q2 and Q3 will both be used for the grand prix, with all drivers competing in Q2 and then the eighth fastest from there progressing to the next segment to fight for NZ GP pole and a prize of NZ$500.
Sunday begins with a sprint race where the winner will earn NZ$1000 and the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup, last won by Matthew Payne and before that by Liam Lawson. The second and third place finishers get NZ$500 and NZ$250 respectively.
In the afternoon is the grand prix itself, with an even bigger prize pot of NZ$5000 for victory, NZ$3000 for second place and NZ$2000 for third place.
The circuit’s own academy will contribute one driver to the grid via a shootout, while reigning TRS champion Payne is anticipated to return to go for victory after finishing third behind Shane van Gisbergen and Chris van der Drift this year.