The Tony Quinn Foundation is putting weight behind Formula Ford racing in New Zealand with the announcement of the biggest and most extensive prize package in the category’s 50 year history.
The single-seater Formula Ford cars are seen as the most important national racing category for junior drivers before they venture into either a higher-level single-seater or saloon cars, and the announcement from the TQ Foundation will give the sport an enormous boost.
A $60,000 package will be fronted by the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy and includes cash prizes for 14 pole awards, a travel fund for competitors who enter the New Zealand championship and test drives for the winners in Toyota Racing Series cars.
A trustee with the TQ Foundation, Steve Horne knows first hand just how important Formula Ford competition is in the development of young drivers, having taken some to success at the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing with his former Tasman Motorsports Indy Lights and CART Series teams.
“Formula Ford has been a global pathway for success for many years. From the late Aryton Senna, IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden and current Supercars Champion Shane van Gisbergen it continues to produce champions. The TQ Foundation is proud to support the New Zealand series for future stars to learn their craft,” said Horne.
In recent months both the North Island Formula Formula Ford (NIFF) and South Island Formula Ford (SIFF) groups have consolidated their rule books and agreed on the same specification tyre, Yokohama, to provide a universal platform for all regional and New Zealand championship events.
“This announcement is tremendously exciting, something never seen before in New Zealand Formula Ford racing,” said Shane Drake, NIFF Chairman who returned to racing in the category last season for the first time since he won the national Formula Ford championship in 1995.
“Adapting to a common Schedule F rulebook across the country is the most important step going forward,” he added, “and now with the TQ Foundation support, I can see the national championship fields swelling to 30 cars.”
“The TQ Foundation support package rewards competitors in regional rounds, and rewards those who go to the national championship. A fantastic incentive for our drivers,” he added.
Both NIFF and SIFF will host six regional rounds per Island with the New Zealand championship decided over eight races at two Super rounds, one at Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell and the grand finale at Taupo in March 2022.
The driver who wins pole at each regional round will be awarded $500, with the pole winning driver at each NZ championship round receiving $1010.10, an exact amount explained because 101 is a significant number for Highlands, the first of two New Zealand racing circuits owned by Tony Quinn. Quinn’s NZ CEO, Josie Spillane explains, The ‘Highlands 101’ was the title of the first race meeting ever held on the Cromwell-based track and is regarded in our wider group as a very auspicious number– our own version of lucky undies, you might say”
Every time a competitor enters a round of the regional series, they will be eligible to receive from the travel fund to attend the NZ Championship series. If they compete in all six of their regional rounds and attend both of the New Zealand Championship Super rounds they will get the most from the $42,000 travel fund. The fund is designed to assist competitors to travel inter-island for the national championship events.
SIFF Chairman Andy Robertson is excited to see a new unified direction for Formula Ford racing in New Zealand and said their members are embracing the changes.
“With the same rules and race formats, competitors can jump from island to island and know what to expect. All races are run in the same way,” Robertson said.
“27 of our SIFF competitors have already signalled that if they qualify they will look at entering the national Super rounds. With cars from the North Island regionals, I can foresee the first Super round at Highlands with 30 plus cars. That’ll be an action packed spectacle.”
And the icing on the prize package cake is a test for each regional series winner at the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy in a second-generation Toyota Racing Series FT-50 single-seater. The driver crowned New Zealand Champion will receive a test drive in the current-spec TRS FT-60.
This announcement from the Tony Quinn Foundation comes after last week’s news of a test drive with Triple Eight Race Engineering in a V8 Supercar for the winner of the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, and earlier announcements of young driver development through the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy.