Seventeen-year-old teen Conrad Clark is eyeing up a local drive in the Toyota Racing Series as his 2020 international plans have been put on the back burner amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, Clark swept the Chinese Formula 4 championship and was rewarded with a scholarship drive in the Chinese F3 series, a precursor for the Asian F3 championship.
Despite the scholarship, Clark was close to inking a deal to contest this year’s US Formula Regional Americas championship (originally US Americas F3), a highly regarded series that is aligned with the FIA’s single-seater development pathway.
However, those plans have since been stalled as the pandemic has compelled the Taupo-based racer to return home and re-centre his racing focus on the local scene, with a TRS drive emerging as his latest aim.
“After winning the Chinese F4 championship I was hoping to jump into one of the F3 series: either Asia, America or Japan,” Clark told Velocity News. “But due to the whole Covid-19 pandemic, all my plans were put on hold so [instead I] have been training flat out and going to school.
“I am about to test the previous generation Toyota car the FT-50 tomorrow just to get back in the swing of things and to ease the body back into it after not being able to drive for about 7 months.
“[It] should be good to get back onto a NZ track after 2 years of not racing or testing here. If all goes well, I would most definitely be interested [in running in the series] and hoping that I could do TRS, but as with many others that’s dependent on sponsorship.”
Having won the F4 Chinese championship last year, Clark is no longer eligible to compete in F4 again.
Ultimately, this has meant Clark had initially set his sights on a drive in Europe though nothing came to fruition.
“Due to the F4 FIA rules, because I had already won a championship I couldn’t do F4 again. But I would most definitely love to have a crack at Europe if the right opportunity was there and I could find the budget.
“I had offers from there last year to do F4 or Formula Regional in Europe but trying to find the budget was the issue. But I’m not too fussy on where I go as long as I’m in a race car then I’m happy.”
The consequent travel restrictions of the pandemic may have ruled out plenty of oversea drives for our aspiring single-seat races.
But incidentally, it has opened the door for a strong contingent of Kiwis to tackle our premier open-wheel class.
While sponsorship and a budget still needs to be taken into consideration before Clark puts pen to paper, the young Kiwi admits he would be more than excited to give the series a go in preparation for a return to his international duties in 2021.
“I think one of the reasons why TRS is so attractive is it’s so well-known and respected by other series around the world,” Clark added. “Plus it gives an opportunity to keep driving all year around being winter everywhere else in the world
“I have also tested the same chassis [as the FT-50] just with a different engine in Asia and it’s definitely a heavier feeling car to drive but I think it just takes a different kind of approach and driving style to understand how to get it up to speed.”
Clark will get his first taste of TRS tomorrow at a private test from Hampton Downs before he confirms what the rest of his 2020 racing calendar will look like.