The New Zealand Grand Prix will be the only opportunity to watch Toyota Racing Series cars next year as Covid-19 continues to disrupt the sport.
A four-round 2022 TRS season was planned to go ahead this summer.
However, Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand (TGRNZ) has confirmed that those plans have been scrapped.
Instead, TGRNZ will put resources towards the standalone Grand Prix event at Hampton Downs in February.
TGRNZ General Manager Andrew Davis says the decision resulted from limited Managed Isolation spots for returning Kiwi drivers and international racers.
“Ongoing COVID disruption has affected our ability to be able to bring in international drivers,” Davis said.
It means 2022 will be the second successive year that there has been a reduced TRS season.
This year’s championship was reduced to just three rounds, all in the North Island and with only a handful of drivers.
Despite that, the New Zealand Grand Prix proved to be hugely successful. The race attracted a plethora of Kiwi stars, including former and current Supercars drivers.
By focusing solely on next year’s Grand Prix, TGRNZ hopes they can build on the success of this year.
“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.”
TGRNZ also welcomed the introduction of a Road to NZ Grand Prix programme.
The programme involves pre-Grand Prix tests for New Zealand drivers and will happen in both the North and South Island.
“The Road to NZ Grand Prix initiative will provide those drivers with a chance to prepare themselves to contest the race,” MotorSport New Zealand CEO Elton Goonan said.
There remains a small glimmer of hope that international drivers might be able to squeeze into the limited number of MIQ spots. However, they could only race in the Grand Prix itself.
“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,” Davis said.
“We have been advised that because of the Delta outbreak, 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.”
Looking forward to 2023, TGRNZ is confident they can deliver a regular TRS championship season, along with international drivers.
“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.”
The 67th New Zealand Grand Prix will be on February 11-13.