Young international motor racing star Liam Lawson’s foray into Japanese racing this year will be supported by the Tony Quinn Foundation (TQF).
The 20-year-old from Pukekohe received a grant from the TQF last year to assist with his Formula 2 racing in Europe but will switch to Super Formula in Japan this season with continuing support announced by the trustees.
About to enter a third year of supporting New Zealand drivers through a variety of grants and scholarships, Lawson is the TQF’s first signing for the new year.
“Our goal is to see success at the highest level in motorsports, and we’ve got two drivers we support at that level, Liam obviously with a goal of Formula 1 and Hunter McElrea with a goal of IndyCar,” said TQF Trustee Steve Horne. “These are our two international ambassadors and they’re both one step away from reaching that final piece of the puzzle, and we’re happy to announce our continuing support for Liam.”
“Liam’s one of about four or five drivers that are pushing very hard to succeed and get into Formula 1, and I think he’s probably the closest of all of them. We’re excited to have him home with us at the moment and look forward to watching his new opportunity unfold in Japan.”
A part of Red Bull F1’s cut-throat junior programme since he turned 17, Lawson has risen through various European racing categories to be on the edge of a Formula 1 breakthrough and retains his role in 2023 of being the official test and reserve driver for both the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri teams.
In addition to his stand-by role and simulation work at Red Bull HQ, Lawson will race in the seven-round Super Formula series in Japan with Honda’s championship-winning Team Mugen.
“They’ve presented me with an opportunity to keep racing this year alongside my reserve driving role, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said Lawson.
While Lawson’s expensive racing budget is covered, he still needs to provide his own living, travel and training costs, which is where his personal sponsors and support from the TQF come into play.
“Without this support, I couldn’t complete my end of the bargain, so I’m extremely grateful to the TQF for the continuing support and for allowing me to chase my dream.”
Regarded as the closest specification car to a Formula 1 machine, Super Formula has been raced in Japan for the past 50 years in various forms with only a handful of non-Japanese drivers able to crack the local stranglehold, the last being fellow Kiwi Nick Cassidy, who won the championship in 2019.
Like Formula 1, the domestic Japanese series is contested by ten teams with two drivers each. All use the same chassis with engines supplied by either Honda or Toyota. Lawson will race alongside current double-champion Tomoki Nojiri in Team Mugen.
“These cars are incredibly quick with high downforce, and for me, it’s the perfect car to race while I wait for an opportunity to enter Formula 1. I really enjoyed the post-season test, and I can’t wait for the official pre-season testing in early March,” added Lawson.
The TQF provides hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of annual support for New Zealand motor racing, from grassroots Formula Ford racing to support scholarship winners in the Toyota 86 and TRS series, arranging a V8 Supercar test prize-drive and individual grants for the likes of McElrea and Lawson.
Main image: Geoff Ridder | Words: Supplied