MotorSport New Zealand has confirmed the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix will take place at Hampton Downs on February 5th, 2023 with a full international field of drivers.
The race will be the climax of the penultimate round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series and will be the main attraction over a weekend of motorsport action on the full international layout of the North Waikato track.
First held in 1950, the New Zealand Grand Prix is best known for hosting rounds of the Tasman Series in the 1960s and 1970s but for the past 15 years it has been the signature race of TRS. Alongside the Macau Grand Prix, it is one of only two FIA-recognised national Grand Prix events that are not part of the Formula One World Championship.
Entries for the Castrol Toyota Racing Series are filling up for the first full international championship since 2020. All New Zealand eyes, however, are likely to be on the performances of the young Kiwi racing drivers who will compete against some of the best up and coming single seater racers in the world.
Callum Hedge is one of those Kiwis and can’t wait to take part in his first NZ Grand Prix where he will aim to put his name alongside some of the motorsport royalty who have won the event over the past seven decades. This list includes names like Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Graeme Hill, Jackie Stewart and Keke Rosberg as well as iconic Kiwis Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Craig Baird, Greg Murphy and of course three time winner Kenny Smith.
“I’m really looking forward to competing in my very first New Zealand Grand Prix,” said Hedge. “It’s such an incredible event with such rich history. If I wanted to win any race on my calendar for next year that has to be the one.
“Putting my name alongside some of motorsport’s all-time greats would mean so much to me, but it’s far from being an easy race so I’m going to have to be fully on my A-Game for the entire weekend to have a chance. And that’s going to be the case for all the competitors. It’s the biggest open wheeler race
we have in New Zealand.”
As well as Hedge, several more young Kiwi racing talents are set to be confirmed for the 2023 TRS Championship over the coming weeks and it’s an impressive achievement given the restrictions of the past two years according to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Nicolas Caillol.
“There’s a significant number of very talented youngsters coming through the ranks which is particularly impressive for a small country,” he said. “Some of the very best are set to join Callum on the grid alongside significant international talent and that’s great news for the sport in New Zealand.”
Shane van Gisbergen was the star of the New Zealand Grand Prix show at at the venue in 2021, producing a miraculous drive from pit lane to win. The 2023 Grand Prix could also include some star names that make one off appearances. Caillol says organisers are hard at work ensuring the first post pandemic NZ GP is a roaring success.
“It’s going to be great to be back with a full international field at the Grand Prix and great that the venue for that will be the international Hampton Downs circuit, which is just a perfect challenge for the drivers and teams,” he said.
“It’s a massive weekend of motorsport for everyone and particularly for us as we will have both our TRS Championship and the Toyota 86 Championship racing that weekend. We have no idea who will win but we are expecting plenty of action, lots of drama and a few surprises along the way.”
The Grand Prix weekend will also have F1 Grand Prix style qualifying for the TRS drivers with a Qualifying 1, Qualifying 2 and Qualifying 3 format where the field is narrowed down to the fastest ten who will fight it out in the final session for pole position. The big race itself will carry a $5000 prize for the winner. Second will secure a $3000 prize and the third placed driver will bag $2000.
The 2023 championship begins at Highlands, before heading to nearby Teretonga Park for Round Two a week later. It then travels North for the third weekend at Circuit Chris Amon – Manfeild before the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix weekend at Hampton Downs. The final weekend and championship decider takes place at Taupo International Motorsport Park on February 10-12.
TRS has one of the best records in junior formulae for the proportion of its drivers over the years who have made it to Formula One or achieved other notable successes. Current F1 aces Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Nicolas Latifi, Lance Stroll and Guanyu Zhou have all raced in TRS. Norris and Stroll were both champions.
2023 Castrol Toyota Racing Series Schedule:
|1||Highlands Motorsport Park||13 to 15 January, 2023|
|2||Teretonga Park Raceway||20 to 22 January, 2023|
|3||Manfield Circuit Chris Amon||27 to 29 January, 2023|
|4||Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park||3 to 5 February, 2023|
|5||Taupo International Motorsport Park||10 to 12 February, 2023|
Main image: Bruce Jenkins