Taylor Cockerton has been around long enough to have gained plenty of single seater experience. Leading up to winning the 2014/15 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship title he first spent several seasons racing Formula First. Three seasons of the Toyota Racing Series finishing in the top ten each time took him further up the single seater ladder. A highlight over that period was winning the 2017 Formula Masters Asian Series. Since then he has had a number of endurance/GT drivers in Asia as well a competing in the Australian Formula 4 round at the 2019 Australian F1 Grand Prix weekend and at the opening S5000 event at Sandown Raceway in Victoria.
His latest foray into single seater racing was a day testing of the new Castral Toyota Racing Series FT60 car at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo. Having competed in the FT50 for three seasons, Talkmotorsport asked him about his impressions and comparisons of the two cars heading into the 2020 season that starts at the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell 16-19 January. A full field of 20 brand new FT60s are expected to take to the grid.
In short, the FT60 is a bigger, heavier and more powerful car, with up to 25% more downforce and with Hankook rubber instead of the Michelin boots TRS have had since the beginning back in 2005. Powered by a 2-litre turbo Toyota 8AR-FTS 270hp engine, the chassis is a FIA F3 monocoque manufactured by Tatuus in Italy and incorporates the new halo driver protection system.
“I really liked it,” commented Cockerton. I didn’t know what to expect as the FT50 was such a good car, but I really liked this one.”
Despite some minor engine hiccups which were to be expected (and the reason for testing), the day’s testing over 50-60 laps was very successful.
“The biggest thing is the power and its delivery, with the turbo. It is a heavier car so certain elements feel slower. For example, your braking distance is longer and mid-corner speed maybe slower, but the car is much more stable than the ‘50’. The engine gives a really nice delivery of power with a small lag period between fourth and fifth gears. It is a lot nicer than the older double cam shaft system of the FT50, where the second cam would activate quite aggressively. This is more linear and nicer for getting out of corners. I don’t think there will be as much rear instability and we will see much higher speeds
“Taupo is predominantly a slow speed track but at the turn 3,4,5 complex it certainly felt faster. It will be a quicker car for sure. The bigger car doesn’t affect where you apex (a corner) but it happens a bit slower. The FT50 is a nimble and light car, where this is much heavier and needs more patience when turning in, particularly for slower corners. Aa a result it appears not as responsive as the FT50 but overall it is much more stable and has less movement in the rear when you put the power down.
“The Hankook tyre is a good choice. It was quite hot on the test day and we did a couple of ‘race-sims’. They don’t appear to have the ‘peak’ that the Michelin has, but will be more stable. Hence the drop-in performance of the tyre will be more gradual.
“I think for qualifying we will see a difference from the Michelin. The Michelin took a little while to get heat into them. These (Hankook’s) took half a lap and then it was bang on the performance zone. I think there will be more of a window to set a fast lap whereas the Michelins had a short approximately three lap window where you either set a fast lap or not. These will be good for 6-7 laps.
“It will be more of a physical challenge for drivers. For example, the steering is heavier. At the test, we took quite a bit of castor out of the car, but it is heavier, and was much more exhausting. It is a real arm work out, particularly with the seating. The steering wheel is much closer so it will provide at real test of fitness. Ergonomically there is a big change in the sitting position with the steering wheel being much higher in the cockpit and the biggest thing to get used to.”
Expect plenty of on-track action as Cockerton thinks that this bigger car mixed with the more narrow and shorter Kiwi circuits will present drivers with a challenge for moving through the field. No doubt we will see for ourselves when Race 1 gets underway Saturday afternoon on Saturday 18 January 2020 at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.