International drivers will be allowed to enter New Zealand for next year’s three-round Castrol Toyota Racing Series after much deliberation.
After ongoing discussions between MotorSport New Zealand, New Zealand Immigration and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand, the news is now out that overseas drivers have been given the green light for the 2021 championship.
Drivers will still have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival into the country, and all drivers must arrive between January 3-6.
This year’s championship saw 19 drivers from outside New Zealand contest a five-round series. Champion for that season was Brazilian racer Igor Fraga.
However, with the global pandemic seeing almost all international travel ground to a standstill, there was concern next year’s championship would only have a limited number of Kiwi entries.
“There has been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to ensure that there were correct protocols and processes in place to allow a limited number of international drivers into the country for the 2021 Championship,” said Toyota New Zealand General Manager for Marketing Andrew Davis.
“Everyone involved in the series is grateful for that work and for the efforts of MBIE, ministers, New Zealand Immigration and Sport NZ to make this happen for the sport.”
Category Manager Nicolas Caillol says the series will now work hard to secure drivers to take advantage of the opportunity.
“We can now follow up several very serious enquiries from drivers wishing to race in the series from overseas and we will be making announcements as we confirm drivers,” said Caillol.
“With lots of interest already from Kiwi drivers and several well-known names, fans can look forward to a fascinating few weeks of driver announcements heading towards the Grand Prix and the other rounds of the championship.”
Unfortunately, the effects of the pandemic have still taken its toll on the championship. Next year there will only be three rounds and nine races across January and February.
The season will kick off with the 66th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix, which for the first time will be held at Hampton Downs. For the first time, the Toyota Racing Series will also race on the longer 4km International circuit layout.
Yesterday it was also announced that 79-year-old Ken Smith would make his 50th Grand Prix start for the race held over January 22-24.
MotorSport New Zealand Acting CEO Elton Goonan was delighted with the news.
“With a large amount of work being done behind the scenes, it’s great that we have been able to have CTRS recognised by Sport NZ and MBIE as an event that will now allow it access to the MIQ facilities.
“Being able to have some international drivers attend the shortened championship in 2021 reinforces the ability for our young star drivers to compete in a world class feeder series.”
After the Grand Prix, the second round of the championship will be on the shorter Hampton Downs National track before concluding at Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild in mid-February.
2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series calendar:
Round 1: Hampton Downs – 22nd –24th January 66th New Zealand Grand Prix
Round 2: Hampton Downs – 29th –30th January
Round 3: Manfeild – 12th –14th February
Main Image: Bruce Jenkins.