The nascent Formula Open New Zealand Championship is set for its most enthralling season to date with several elite Kiwi racers committing to racing in the budding series.
The brainchild of John Tomlin and Ken Smith, Formula Open NZ (FONZ) aims to bring back a cost-affordable and exciting wings and slicks racing class to the nation’s top circuits.
FONZ, operated separately from Formula Libre, sees a combination of high-speed, ground effect Ralt and Reynard Formula Atlantics battle it out with former TRS Tatuus FT50s and FT40s, Formula Renaults, Dallara F3 and Formula Holden’s as well as the historic Swift.
The series’ core remains any pre- 2015 wings and slicks single-seater racing cars running in the configuration of and specification of which they originally raced. Cars are split into three time groups for each round with strict speed brackets to encourage a more competitive playing field.
While last year’s inaugural championship saw relatively small entry numbers, the 2020/21 season has already enticed the interest of international F3 competitor Brendon Leitch and reigning Australian SuperUtes champion Tom Alexander who this season will pilot an ex-Marcus Armstrong FT50.
While the series was launched as a harmony championship for single-seaters which otherwise would be gathering dust in garages across the country, FONZ will also provide an ideal stepping stone for many of the country’s aspiring youngsters making the transition from Formula Ford with the plan of landing a drive in the Toyota Racing Series.
Leading the charge is incumbent NZ Formula Ford Champion Billy Frazer who will campaign another FT50 in the seven-round series.
TRS veteran Taylor Cockerton ran an FT40 last season with an intention on upgrading to the slightly more powerful FT50 in time for the opening round at Hampton Downs.
Shakedown testing between seasons has suggested the performance difference between the FT50/40 and Formula Atlantics rests within one-second and looking to prove the capabilities of the FT40 machinery will be former TRS runners-up Sam McNeil and BMW Scholarship winner Josh Donohue.
The grandmaster of the series, Kenny Smith is all set to campaign his recently rebuilt 1990 NZ Grand Prix winning Swift DB4 Formula Atlantic powered by a sinister Ford BDA engine which could throw a spanner in the works of the front runners given the DB4’s renown ground effect package.
Across the ditch, ex-pat Kiwi Bruce McKenzie is set to run his 2014 Dallara F3 which currently resides in Queensland while Melbourne-based racer Bruin Beazley is hoping travel restrictions will abate to allow him to run an MTEC Motorsport-prepared FT50.
While offering points and a competitive racing atmosphere, FONZ remains dictated out of enjoyment for drivers over being a fully serious championship.
As it stands, FONZ will stage all of its championship rounds in the North Island with races shared across Pukekohe, Hampton Downs, Manfeild and Taupo. However, the series will run a non-competition friendly round at the Skope Classic in February.
The opening round of the 2020/21 FONZ championship is slated to be held from Hampton Downs on September 26.
2020/21 FONZ Calendar:
Main Image: Matt Smith