Confirming venues for the 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series is proving difficult the closer we get to the end of the year. It’s likely that the NZ Grand Prix will head to Pukekohe Park in Auckland and while you’re thinking about this, keep your Spark Sport monthly subscription going over the summer as the TRS TV coverage is also likely to jump ship from SKY.
Logistics appear to be the determining variable for Toyota GAZOO Racing NZ in arranging and now confirming dates for the five-round 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series set to go 22-24 January 2021. It’s part of the current Covid-19 world we live in with consideration needed to be given to young international drivers coming into New Zealand and having time to quarantine before racing.
“That opening weekend is logistically the first available if a driver was to land in NZ and quarantine from 1 January 2021,” commented Mark Whittaker, Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand manager. “It’s all about logistics as the coronavirus is dictating timeframes, but we are confident that we can quarantine drivers in time to race over five consecutive weekends of the TRS and then for them to get back to Europe for F2 and F3 testing.
“In confirming these dates, we want to send a signal that we are working towards a full season of racing. It is early days but there is already interest with drivers quite happy to quarantine as NZ is now seen as a safe country to come to. Nico Caillol (TRS Category manager) is in constant communication with overseas drivers.”
At this stage no venues have been confirmed as this is now with Speed Works who organise the domestic summer series of racing. Contrary to recent rumours that the five rounds would be undertaken only in the North Island, Whittaker says that they are keen to go to the South Island and have a truly national series. “This now lies with Speed Works as again there are a lot of logistics to take into account, particularly with organising support categories.”
Not only are the five venues still to be determined, also to be decided by MotorSport New Zealand, is the circuit to host the New Zealand Grand Prix.
For the last 13 seasons, Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding has hosted the NZGP. This contract is now up for renewal with a number of circuits willing to host the event.
Usually run as the last round of the series, the 2021 NZGP weekend (19-21 Feb) is likely to clash with the final sailing races of the Prada Cup which determines the challenger for the 2021 America’s Cup.
“We were aware of that,” commented Whittaker. “What is desirable and what pans out can be quite different. Again, it is all about logistics.”
The Prada Cup starts on Saturday 13 February with the first team to win seven out of 13 races. This could logistically finish early with the seventh and eighth races to be sailed on Friday 19 Feb.
The NZ Grand Prix needs to be at a main centre, such as Auckland and arguably, besides Ardmore, Pukekohe is its home. Hosting it on the same weekend as the Prada Cup will not necessarily be a clash, rather a master stroke in timing for Toyota.
There is also speculation that live TV coverage of the summer series may well move from Sky Sport to Spark Sport.
Toyota New Zealand this week has announced a partnership with Spark to use their new 5G network to enhance digital customer experiences. Again, Whittaker says this decision lies with Speed Works.
While Speed Works may ultimately decide who gets the TV coverage, there is no doubt that TNZ may have already asked politely for Spark Sport to be the main provider and how could you say no!
With all this speculation, we must not forget that much of motorsport is very much on a knife edge. Let’s remember that the Australian F1 Grand Prix, the opening round of the season, was cancelled only on the morning of the first practice.
Now we have the first F1 driver, Sergio Perez, having returned a positive Covid-19 test and will sit out the British Grand Prix this weekend.
As we keep saying, expect the unexpected!