TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand has today confirmed that the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs on February 11-13 will be the only chance to see the Castrol Toyota Racing Series cars in action this summer.
“Ongoing COVID disruption has affected our ability to be able to bring in international drivers,” says TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand General Manager, Andrew Davis.
“It’s a shame that despite TRS being a key junior formulae championship in world motorsport with international recognition and even more interest than normal during this pandemic period, we once again have to focus only on a domestic event.”
A four round championship had been planned with two rounds in the South Island but access to MIQ facilities for returning Kiwi drivers and prospective Australian and international drivers has been declined.
TGRNZ has decided to focus on making the Grand Prix a successful stand-alone event alongside what is shaping up to be the biggest ever Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship.
“We remain fully committed to making the opportunity we have a successful one for the young kiwi drivers with our goal of finding New Zealand’s next world champion at the heart of our efforts,” says Andrew.
“Unfortunately, due to the number of local drivers we have, we’re unable to run a New Zealand only championship. This format will still give us the opportunity to showcase New Zealand based talent first and foremost in 2022.”
Despite strong interest from overseas motorsport regions like Europe, the United States and Australia that would have been more than enough to fill the grid, organisers have been left with few options.
“We are therefore developing a Road to NZ Grand Prix package with a test programme which will run for New Zealand drivers in the build up to the NZGP itself. Dates and venues in both the North and South Island will be confirmed soon,” says Andrew.
One small ray of hope remains for international drivers for 2022 but would still only mean they could race in the Grand Prix itself.
“On a broader and important note for the championship we have developed a self-isolation proposal that would work hand-in-hand with the Government’s proposed road map for allowing access to New Zealand for drivers who meet appropriate vaccination and COVID-19 test requirements,” added Andrew.
“We have been advised that because of the Delta outbreak and the vaccination programme this won’t be reviewed and ready for what would have been the start of the season. There is only a small chance it could be in place in time for a small number of overseas drivers to take part in the Grand Prix itself.
“However, it’s more likely to be a protocol for the 2023 championship and beyond when we hope and are confident that we will be much closer to a normal Castrol TRS season with the best young drivers from abroad taking on our young Kiwi talent.”
MotorSport New Zealand CEO Elton Goonan echoed Davis’ thoughts, adding: “A lot of work has gone in behind the scenes by MotorSport New Zealand and the various government agencies as we worked with TGRNZ and various NZ drivers to try to get border access for them to take part in motorsport events.
“The initial decline was under a review but the current COVID-19 outbreak has now put all chances out of reach for overseas-based drivers coming this summer season for racing. It does however give some of our up-coming as well as established local stars a chance to contest the one-off New Zealand Grand Prix and the ‘Road to NZ Grand Prix’ initiative will provide those drivers with a chance to prepare themselves to contest the race.”