Pukekohe racer Taylor Cockerton has announced a one-off run in the final round of the 2015-2016 Toyota Finance 86 Championship to be held in Taupo on the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this Easter.
Cockerton, 18, is fresh from a top ten finish on debut in the ‘wings and slicks’ Toyota Racing Series (TRS) and says with that result behind him and intentions to return to TRS in 2017, he was looking for a way to maintain his race focus. He will race in the #98 Northland Toyota car used in earlier rounds by Australian-based Kiwi Jaxon Evans.
Facing his first race outing in a ‘tintop’ of any kind, Cockerton took part in a one-day TR 86 test at Taupo on Wednesday (March 16). Also present at the Taupo test were three leading rookie drivers: Jacob Smith, Reid Harker and Jayden Dodge.
Cockerton said having the other three drivers also testing was valuable, as he was able to quickly gauge his own speed against theirs and understand the differences between the single-seater and the purpose-built TR 86 race car. With the test day complete, he is excited about the prospect of gridding up for the fiercely competitive series.
“TRS cars are insanely quick, especially at Taupo, because they have massive aero. The TR 86 can be driven differently because its grip is mostly mechanical, so the racing will be even closer. You can certainly hit the kerbs harder in an 86 than a TRS car. Once we put some fresher tyres on we were quickly on the pace,” he said.
“For me the day was all about learning and adapting from single seater to tin-top. [Experienced racer, engineer and team manager] Andy Neale came up from Christchurch to engineer us for the day and his advice was really valuable, he made a real difference as I got used to the car.”
Cockerton says in either a TRS FT50 single-seater or a TR 86, the Taupo circuit is very technical – but for different reasons. Fast laps at Easter will be about getting the twisty parts of the circuit right and getting a good run onto the big straight.
The race deal came together ‘very quickly’ with the support of key Toyota Racing New Zealand management.
“We talked to Toyota Racing’s Barrie Thomlinson and Geoff Short sorted out the deal to run at the TR 86 final. It all happened really quickly which was great. Being able to test at Taupo going into race weekend means we know what we are doing.”
Now in its third season, the single-make championship has attracted record fields to every round. A total of 25 drivers have contested one or more round this year, with 18 ‘regulars’ contesting the championship and in contention for category titles.
Aucklanders have a lock-out on the top three places in the championship, with Coatesville’s Ash Blewett leading from Callum Quin and Masters category leader John Penny. The points gap between Blewett and Quin is 156 with 75 points available for each race win. John Penny trails Callum Quin by a further seven points.
This final weekend of the six-round series starts with official practice on Good Friday, with qualifying and one race on Saturday and the final two races of the championship on Sunday.
Demand for the TR 86 race cars used in the series has skyrocketed, with all of the original build of 20 now spoken for and a further build planned for the winter months. The additional cars will be built to order.
The championship is televised on TV3 and SKY.