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TRS loses chance to include international drivers in 2021 season

by Elliot Wood

Photo: Toyota Racing NZ

The 2021 Toyota Racing Series will not include international drivers – despite the series securing exemption from New Zealand’s immigration body – due to a lack of capacity in quarantine facilities.

Lengthy consultation and discussion with MotorSport New Zealand, MBIE and Immigration NZ – which had closed its borders during the COVID-19 pandemic – resulted in the North Island-based TRS being granted exemption status early last December which allowed international drivers to race after a compulsory quarantine in a set hotel.

However, with only 11 sporting contests across the country being given exemptions, the quarantine facilities have been quick to fill up and in the two-week period before the TRS season starts on January 22 there will not be the required space.

“After working with MBIE and Sport NZ we are disappointed that we are unable to get international drivers into New Zealand to compete due to the lack of space in MIQ facilities,” said Toyota NZ’s Andrew Davis.

“We had several international drivers lined up and ready to come, so we are disappointed that this is the end result, especially as we had worked hard to gain approved status. We have seen many of the TRS drivers go on to compete in Formula 1 including international and New Zealand drivers and we had done everything in our power to ensure this continued this season.”

The season opens at Hampton Downs, where the final race of the weekend will award the New Zealand Grand Prix. One week later the series will race at the circuit again, and then the final round will take place at Manfeild.

Several of the country’s top domestic racers across motorsport have been attracted to race in the grand prix, a strategy Toyota NZ pursued as a contingency plan in case international drivers weren’t able to enter.

“The implications for the series are that the talented young New Zealand drivers racing will not get to compete against international drivers of a similar calibre,” Davis added.

“The economic impact of the international drivers coming into New Zealand is huge to the local areas where we race.

“However, we are excited for the series and it will definitely be one to watch this year with a lot of great up and coming Kiwi talent competing and a significant list of established Kiwi racers bolstering the field.”