2010 was the start of a new phase for the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. The five round series took place in the first three months of the year (January-March 2010) rather than spread across the whole summer. This included a four-round International series held over a five week period (16-17 Jan – 13-14 Feb)
It proved to be a close fought championship between Kiwi drivers Mitch Evans and Earl Bamber. While Bamber took six wins to Evans three, it was Evans who took the title by just three points.
It was Evans who also proved to be the quickest over the five round 15 race season gaining 8/10 pole positions and setting the fastest lap in five races.
Evans came from a background in kartsport before moving into Formula First and then finishing runner-up in the 2008/09 NZ Formula Ford Championship. Next he headed to Australia finishing second overall in the Australia Formula Ford Championship before returning to compete in the 2010 TRS.
It was Bamber’s fourth time competing in TRS and he came back to the series with a wealth of single seater experience including Formula BMW Asia, Formula Renault V6 Asia, GP2 Asia and A1GP.
The TRS season started at Teretonga Park in Southland with three separate winners. Evans won the opening race with Estonian Sten Pentus taking the second and Brazilian Lucas Foresti the third.
Pentus went on to finish fourth overall even though he missed the final round in Taupo in March. He was very quick finishing on the podium 7/12 times including a second race win at Hampton Downs.
Pentus headed back to Europe competing in Formula Renault 3.5 and finished fourth overall. What competing in TRS achieved for Pentus was it gave him race fitness. He was immediately on the pace at the opening round of Formula Renault 3.5 winning the second race of the opening round at Ciudad del Motor de Aragón in Spain. This appeared to make an impression on Northern Hemisphere teams of the value of racing in New Zealand in their winter.
The second TRS round at Timaru followed a week later with wins to Evans and Bamber (x 2).
A two week gap saw the field head to the North Island to Hampton Downs in the north Waikato. Kiwi Andrew Waite took his first win in the second race and went on to finish third overall. Evans and Pentus taking the other race wins.
The NZ Grand Prix meeting was held a week later with a number of drivers making an appearance including Richie Stanaway, Sam MacNeill and Ken Smith. Stanaway, as always, proved quick winning the opening race, Waite won the second and a jubilant Earl Bamber the feature Grand Prix.
Bamber went on to win all three races at the Taupo meeting in March while Evans did enough, finishing on the podium in the last four races of the season to clinch his first Toyota Racing Series title by three points.
Championship standings 2010 (Top 10)
1 Mitch Evans 915
2 Earl Bamber 912
3 Andrew Waite 762
4 Sten Pentus 660
5 Daniel Jilesen 643
6 Alastair Wootten 623
7 Stefan Webling 606
8 Lucas Foresti 536
9 Jamie McNee 472
10 Richie Stanaway 362