Open-wheel racing has long been considered the pinnacle of motor sports, where supreme beings among mere mortals go to drive in the likes of Formula 1 (F1). It only takes one look at Toyota Racing New Zealand’s single-seater championship, the Toyota Racing Series (TRS), to see how popular it remains on our shores. Stretching back 15 years, the series continues to evolve, with the recent unveiling of its latest car platform and a new framework that will help mark the championship as a must-do for the world’s best up-and-coming racing drivers.
Known as the ‘FT-60’, the latest incarnation is the third car to have been used in the series. It is said to be a state-of-the-art chassis that more closely resembles a scaled-down F1 offering rather than either of its two previous counterparts, the FT-40 and the FT-50. Designed and built by Italian manufacturer Tatuus, the carbon-fibre chassis is similar to what’s currently used in other global junior formulas but is powered by a new engine package that offers up a whopping 200kW at the rears, making it one of the best-performing junior cars on the FIA’s recognized pathway to F1.
The FT-60’s two-litre turbocharged power plant is based on the 8AR FTS found in various Toyota and Lexus models. It’s been developed and bumped up to race specifications by the same local engineers who were tasked with developing and maintaining the 1.8-litre engines it replaces and is backed by a six-speed sequential Sadev gearbox with paddle shift. Tyre sizes have been increased to ensure that the uprated power can be transferred to the ground.
With refreshed aero, the FT-60 will generate 25 per cent more downforce than the previous FT-50 and will weigh just 600kg, thanks to the use of carbon-fibre chassis, bodywork, and aero.
It also features all the key recent safety initiatives developed by the FIA in conjunction with F1, including the use of a ‘halo’ driver protection system to protect the driver from side, top, and frontal impact from debris in an accident. It also features the very latest in side- and front-impact technology in the chassis itself.
The wheels are twin tethered to prevent them being sent into a fellow competitor when things go pear-shaped — another feature straight out of F1 — and the car has undergone 36 controlled crash tests in the lab to ensure that it meets the highest safety standards.
As a package, it falls within the FIA’s own cost-restriction parameters, with known costs for replacement parts a critical element in ensuring that the category isn’t accessible only to international drivers but also to Kiwi talent. Teams lease cars from Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand to run during the annual championship, and each is prepared to identical standards in the company’s facility based at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
Series manager Nicolas Caillol says that the recipe will increase the series’ profile in global motor sport and be a major boost to the sport domestically.
“It is a globally relevant car and a globally relevant championship for any serious young racing driver, and we hope to attract even more up-and-coming stars looking to make a step up in their career,” he says. “They could be from Formula 4, from Formula 3, from the all-women W Series, or from other tier-three categories in the FIA ladder. [The series] is even relevant for those who have been successful in tier-two categories [and are] looking to consolidate and sharpen their skills, or gain more Super Licence points, on their final push towards F1.”
Chassis: Carbon-fibre composite manufactured by Tatuus (Italy)
Engine: Race-prepped 8AR FTS–derived two-litre four-cylinder; turbocharged, direct and port injection systems
Power: 200 kW
Weight: 600kg (dry)
Top speed: 250kph
Gearbox: Six-speed Sadev sequential with paddle shift
Tyres: (F) 230/560, (R) 280/580
FIA Tier: Three