So, the future is relatively set now that Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand (TGRNZ) has announced that a shortened 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series will take place over three rounds starting late January. History will show that a certain driver won the series, maybe that the same or another driver wins the NZ Grand Prix and that will be that. It is unfortunate that we don’t have our usual five consecutive rounds. It is also unfortunate that we are living with a global pandemic. We therefore have to work with the best outcome possible and plan to do better in the future. While a three-round series is disappointing, maybe it is the best option.
As announced, the first two rounds will both be at Hampton Downs, while the third, still to be confirmed, the New Zealand Grand Prix, will take place, again, at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding.
The series is unlikely to gain FIA Super Licence points for 2021 due to a lack of rounds and the use of only two circuits. This is turn will make the series less attractive for internationals to come, but maybe that was always going to be difficult given the current border restrictions that the NZ Government has in place.
Some cry foul that the South Island misses out. True, but so does Pukekohe Park in Auckland and the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo. In fact, Toyota are basically keeping it local. TGRNZ are based at Hampton Downs, while Toyota New Zealand is based in Palmerston North, 20 minutes down the road from Feilding. Most of New Zealand misses out.
It would therefore appear that the circuit decisions are more about cost savings and this makes sense. It will undoubtedly be made up of Kiwi drivers with a concern is that there are a number who will be clearly out of their depth. It is a major step up from a Formula Ford even with testing in a FT40 and a FT50.
The Toyota Racing Series is now well established on the world stage. It started off with a hiss and a roar back in 2005. By 2009 and 2010 it had hit some lean years in terms of numbers on the grid (In 2009 only seven drivers competed at all the rounds). Since then we have seen a fantastic series evolve when the quick-fire format (five consecutive weekends) which everntually fell into place. This in turn started to attract an ever increasing international entry list.
We do tend to forget about those early years and think fondly of the talent that started to arrive from 2012 and on.
Barring any major coronavirus lock-down in NZ, the history books will show that the series did go ahead. While it won’t be like we are used to and expect, it will be a season that we just need to get through in order to anticipate a brighter 2022.