The lights are out and the cars are away
The top level of domestic New Zealand motor sport is underway, and is already looking ahead to the third major domestic meeting of the season at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, on January 14–15, with a trip to Teretonga Park the following weekend for the fourth round.
Topping the bill for the next five rounds, culminating in the New Zealand Grand Prix, will be the Formula One stars of tomorrow in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series — the top single-seater category in New Zealand.
They’ll be backed up by the BNT NZ Touring Cars with a field that should see more up and coming young guns in both the top V8 SuperTourers- and TLX-specification class-one cars, and the older, development-level TL-specification class-two cars.
Toyota will be represented again at Christchurch and Invercargill, with a grid full of the popular 86 chassis, in what is proving to be the most competitive season yet for the production-based class. The Portergroup V8 Ute Racing Series is also on the bill, and has enjoyed some epic battles in its first two rounds so far.
Watch out for Formula 1600 and New Zealand’s best up and coming single-seater racers, the superfast OSCA series, Mainland Muscle Cars, and the mighty NZ Super Truck Championship at Invercargill. When the series heads back up north in late January and February, the TradeZone GTRNZ series — which has big grids for its GT1 and GT2 field, and its GT3 and GT4 field — Honda Cup, and Mazda Pro7 Racing will all be added to the bill.
The Pirelli Porsche Championship is also on the bill for the South Island, bringing together modern and classic Porsches in several keenly-contested classes within its grid. Mainland Muscle Cars will add some historic flavour, with one of the finest collections of this type of racing car anywhere in the local racing world.
Last, but by no means least, will be the NZ Super Truck Championship, which is at several rounds of the mainstream car-racing programme for the first time in many seasons. It will be the first of several appearances for the trucks in the Premier Motorsport season, and there’s absolutely no doubt that they’ll add enormously to the excitement and the action.
For more info, check out the Speedworks Events page on Facebook or visit speedworksevents.co.nz.
Lando Norris returns
Lando Norris, the diminutive English teenager who won last summer’s Castrol Toyota Racing Series, is returning to defend his title. Norris was the class act of the field last January and February, winning six races and finishing on the podium another five times, to finish the hectic 15-race series 132 points ahead of India’s Jehan Daruvala.
“I'm really excited to be heading back to New Zealand to contest the Toyota Racing Series,” Norris said. “I thoroughly enjoyed racing in the TRS at the beginning of this year which put me on the road to an incredibly successful 2016 season.
“The five tracks are really interesting and will get me race sharp again for when I return to the European season in 2017.”
Norris’ success in New Zealand 10 months ago set him up for a strong season in Europe, where he won both the European and Northern European Formula Renault titles with a total of 11 wins and 12 other podium results, starting from pole position in 16 of the 29 races.
He contested a handful of British Formula 3 Championship races, winning four, before leaving the series to concentrate on the European events at tracks he will again race on in 2017.
Collinson looking for title
Hamilton-based NZ V8 Ute Racing Series racer Glen Collinson recently took the wraps off his new-look Panorama Motorsport Ford Falcon FG ute, and revealed a new title sponsor for the team’s most focused campaign to date for the NZ V8 Ute Racing Series title. The Ford — the only FG model in the series, and now backed by custom car paints specialist DNA for the first half of the 2016–’17 season — was revealed at an old-school–style launch in Hamilton, with Collinson and the Panorama Motorsport team looking forward to the season ahead.
Fresh from finishing third in the three-round NZ V8 Ute Racing Series sprint season, Collinson is optimistic that both he and the team can make the necessary step forward to offer a serious title challenge to the rest of the NZ V8 Ute Racing Series runners. “We have proved over the past two seasons that we can be competitive at every circuit and that we can win races,” he said.
“What we now have to do is put all of that knowledge together, so that we can go out at every round and aim to win races, or at least finish consistently high up in the points if a win is not possible.
“Consistency as well as competitiveness are what we need to have a serious crack at the title, and we are very focused on achieving that. The rebuilt ute, the knowledge we have, and the resources and support we have from a major partner such as DNA will all be critical in making that step up, and will hopefully be a platform to move forward together on a long-term basis.”
This will be Collinson’s fifth season of competition, in a career that has included endurance racing, two seasons racing in the Suzuki Swift series, and three seasons in the NZ V8 Ute Racing Series category. In addition to DNA, Glen will continue to be supported by Betta Auto Parts and insurance broker Ruys & Co. Ltd.
Touring cars aim for parity
With the first year done and dusted, the category executive of the BNT NZ Touring Cars Championship is happy with how the debut season went. With the 2016–’17 season having begun, changes are under way to bring the on-track events even closer together. Integrating V8 SuperTourers (V8ST) and TLX cars into one class has worked, but steps are still being taken to get the cars on a par, performance-wise. This includes making a number of components on both chassis packages — V8ST and TLX — eligible to be used on either, as well as engine parity, for which it has been suggested that an engine power window be established. To add even more competitiveness, ‘success ballast weight’ is likely to be introduced, where the top-placed cars may have weight added to help mix up the pack
The remaining rounds of the BNT NZ Touring Cars six-round 2016–’17 season are as follows.
Round three: January 14–15, 2017 (Mike Pero Motorsport Park)
Round four: January 21–22, 2017 (Teretonga Park)
Round five: February 11–12, 2017 (Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon; NZGP)
Round six: March 11–12, 2017 (Hampton Downs Motorsport Park)