2022 NZ Grand Prix, a golden opportunity for young drivers

| Photographer Credit: Bruce Jenkins

For young, up and coming Kiwi single seater drivers, the 2022 New Zealand Grand Prix is a golden opportunity to have their name etched on the trophy, more so than ever before.  The 67th running of the NZGP at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, 11-13 February, will be the only event that TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand’s TRS FT60 cars will compete in over this summer.  Given that there will be no international drivers coming from overseas as well as potential Kiwi drivers also unable to cross the Tasman sea, it now presents an unique opportunity for a local driver to shine.

Our borders may still be shut early in 2022 and we know that for any Kiwis wanting to return home, gaining a place in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) is not a certainty. Even if Australian-based Kiwi drivers were able to return, the date of the Grand Prix is likely to clash with Supercars testing obligations and the proposed Bathurst 12 Hour event, 7 February 2022.

TGRNZ have made the decision to host only one event, given that the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, the threat of lockdowns and the lack of MIQ availability. 

This makes sense.  The obstacles facing any event organiser and the uncertainty that comes with it, being prudent and forward thinking must be congratulated.

For drivers domiciled in NZ, these factors will work in their favour in narrowing the potential competition.

Outside of personal and sponsor funding, Kiwi drivers have available support from the Kiwi Driver Fund along with the opportunity to be part of the Hampton Downs Academy’s Prize shootout where its graduates will go head to head to win funding towards a drive in the Grand Prix. 

For funding streams, this season offers one of the best since the inaugural Toyota Racing Series back in 2005. Make no mistake, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand will want to see any potential single seater driver (with a least Formula Ford experience) on the 2022 NZGP grid.

While no young driver has confirmed their intentions, we are likely to see the return of Billy Frazer and Peter Vodanovich who have been competing in the 2021 USF2000 Series in the US.  Also on the NZGP grid earlier this year was Kaleb Ngatoa and is likely to be joined by current NZ Formula Ford champion James Penrose and fellow Cantabrian Jacob Douglas.  Douglas has also returned from spending time in the US with Kiwi Motorsport with extensive testing and racing in both F4 and F3 cars. Then there is the very quick Matthew McCutcheon and will we also see the more experienced Chris van der Drift, previous two-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Gaunt, Tom Alexander, brothers Damon and Brendon Leitch, Greg Murphy and Ken Smith?

Any young NZGP potential driver is likely to turn up on the coming Formula Open Series grid where wings and slicks racing experience can be gained in FT40, FT50, and Formula Renault. Getting underway 12-14 November 2021 at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, it presents two opportunities with a second round at the Skope Classic in Christchurch a week before the Grand Prix, 2- 6 February 2022.

A golden opportunity is set for a young driver to make history for themselves and the New Zealand Grand Prix. If they get it right, they will have their name on the trophy.

See also: More cars expected on the grid as Formula Open sets summer calendar

See also: Road to NZ Grand Prix programme released by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing NZ

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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