Multi-time Carrera Cup champion and European open-wheel regular Chris van der Drift has been confirmed for the 66th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix — his first attempt at the race.
Van der Drift will compete in a car wrapped in the familiar, iconic LCI-inspired colours of Tasman Motorsports. Run by Kiwi Steve Horne, Tasman Motorsport was a force to be reckoned with in Indy and CART competition through the 1990s, having campaigned some of the most popular and talented drivers of the period — including Helio Castroneves, Scott Goodyear, and Adrian Fernandez.
More recently, Horne and Tasman Motorsports competed in the NZ SuperTourers with the likes of Andrew Waite and Daniel Gaunt. Horne was also recently the chairman of the Supercars commission.
“As a New Zealander I’ve never done a lot of racing here. I did some karting here, a little bit in Australia then went off to Europe,” said van der Drift. “Up until this year, all I’ve done in New Zealand was one single seater race here – the Grand Prix in 2006, an A1GP round and two V8 SuperTourer rounds. COVID-19 has prevented a great deal more this year.
“Just as much for me as for Steve and Christine, it’s a box I would like to tick. I’ve had just one shot at it in the past. Now to have another chance, I’m pumped. And clearly the record of Steve and Christine and what they have achieved speaks for itself.
“There are some very good drivers who are going to be out there too. I’m going for the win, this is my chance to do it, I feel good and I’m driving well. Once the entry list is finalised, I think it’s going to be quite a spectacle.”
For Horne, the NZ Grand Prix berth has been a long time coming. The former US open-wheel team owner has a long-standing admiration for the event, which helped fuel his initial love for motorsport.
“My father George was on the original New Zealand Grand Prix committee back in the early 50’s. I watched my first Grand Prix back in 1957 when it was won by Reg Parnell, that’s probably what ignited my passion for the sport,” he said.
“We’ve followed Chris [van der Drift’s] career closely, he knows how to win, and he’s proven that in nearly everything he’s raced in,” added Horne. We’ve won some big races in the US with some great world class drivers, but we’ve never entered the Grand Prix here. To win it, would be pretty special for Christine and I – it’s a bucket list race for us, we are excited to put a car on the grid.
“Toyota have done a fantastic job to bring this high level single seater in the form of the FT60 to New Zealand circuits and the work that Hampton Downs and SpeedWorks Events are doing to raise the profile of the event is to be commended.”
Van der Drift joins the likes of Shane van Gisbergen, Kenny Smith, Matthew Payne, and Billy Frazer on the Grand Prix grid. The event takes place on January 22–24 at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.