The Castrol Toyota Racing Series announced its 2021 calendar dates last week, but did not confirm which venues around the country would host its five-week calendar.
Now, VelocityNews understands that the series is set to be based solely in the North Island, as part of a risk-management measure to reduce the possible impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, and Pukekohe Park are all expected to host a round, while Hampton Downs Motorsport Park is expected to host the opening two events on January 22–23 and January 29–30.
The second of the two opening rounds at Hampton Downs will align with the annual New Zealand Toyota Festival; an event that brings together Toyota owners from around the country for on-track and off-track festivities.
Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell and Teretonga Park in Invercargill were the two South Island venues to host the Toyota Racing Series earlier this year.
Speed Works Managing Director Geoff Short confirmed to VelocityNews that a North Island–based calendar looked likely, but outlined that it’s yet to be made official. Which event will host the illustrious New Zealand Grand Prix is also yet to be confirmed.
“To be efficient with the two South Island rounds, you’d need to do the two back-to-back. Let’s say we did Highlands Motorsport Park first. That would mean that on the second weekend we’d be clashing with Timaru and you’d be struggling to get the [support] categories to make an event work,” Short explained.
“As much as we clashed [in the 2020 season] and it wasn’t ideal, it was probably more a matter of the cost of going there and the [Covid-19] risk. Obviously there’s still a risk, and if for some reason TRS couldn’t happen it’s risky to plan to do the South Island.”
Short outlined three different potential formats for the series, a traditional “full international series” that will involve a high number of drivers from overseas, a “Trans-Tasman series” made up of up-and-comers from Australia and New Zealand, and a purely local series.
The direction the 2021 Toyota Racing Series takes out of these three possible options will be based on how New Zealand performs in its ongoing mitigation of the Covid-19 pandemic, and whether approval is given for overseas racers to be allowed to flock to New Zealand to quarantine and then compete in the series.
Short also acknowledged that keeping the series in the North Island will mean less clashes with South Island events — a risk that increased in likelihood following the decision to shift the TRS calendar dates one week backwards.
Short also said that the main reason for the delay was to give drivers the chance to spend Christmas with their families before having ample time to adhere to local two-week quarantine regulations.
“If you look at drivers having Christmas with their families, and you take the travel period and the quarantine period, [that’s why] the series is starting a week later this year,” Short said.
“The problem with going south is that, because we’re a week later, we wouldn’t want to clash with south island events. To be efficient with the two South Island rounds, you’d need to do the two back-to-back.”