A dozen of the country’s top young racers enjoyed their first taste of the Toyota 86 at Ruapuna today and all left impressed and in no doubt why the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship remains one of the most hotly-contested in the Southern hemisphere.
The field included rising stars Louis Sharp, Bo Hill, Jacob Mitchell and Jack Noble Adams with all 12 drivers enjoying coaching from new champion Rowan Shepherd, third placed Ryan Wood and ex-category racer Jaden Ransley before getting down to some serious testing miles at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park track.
“It’s a pretty cool track and is my first time on it,” said Sharp. “It’s technical and has a few braking zones but I really enjoyed it. And it was the same with the car.
“It’s a little bit different to what I have been driving of course but it was really fun and there’s lots more time I can find by pushing it harder. Grip and braking are outstanding.”
Speedway racer Jacob Mitchell was another to sample the car and found the huge transition from speedway to circuit was one aided by a user-friendly car.
“That’s my first time in an 86 but I have done some time around here in the past couple of years,” he said. “I’ve been used to racing speedway for the past two and a half seasons and it’s been great getting used to the braking of the TR86 and the tar seal.
“Its lots of fun and the car certainly gives me plenty of confidence. The brakes are excellent and there’s heaps of grip.”
The testing was divided into morning and afternoon sessions with each driver getting the chance to work with a driver coach and then work with engineers to see and interpret data from their time in the car.
The day was also part of a big push by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand to build the profile of the championship ahead of its return to South Island circuits as part of the 2021-2022 championship.
Shepherd, who won the championship in a three-way fight against Simon Evans and Wood, was impressed with the talent on show in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
“Every single one of the drivers went well, and that’s unusual especially when we had a field that included single seater drivers, karters, speedway drivers and several having their first experience with a gear shift in a race car,” he said.
“There’s obviously a huge amount of talent out there and it bodes very well for another ultra-competitive and entertaining Best Bars championship for the drivers and the fans.”
More TR86 test sessions are likely in the South Island in the coming weeks with the 2021-2022 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship dates also set to be announced imminently – and the six round championship will feature two South Island weekends.
Main Image: Bruce Jenkins