A champion with nowhere to go. That is the tricky predicament Peter Vodanovich has found himself in after having been crowned the 2019/20 Toyota 86 champion but with his current overseas intentions stalled amid the global pandemic.
The hard-charging Kiwi wrapped up the Best Bars Toyota 86 title prematurely when series organisers decided to make the revised finale from Hampton Downs a non-competition event.
It meant Vodanovich’s slender two-point advantage over Australian rival Jaylyn Robotham was sufficient enough to lift the crown, with Robotham a leading cause in the curtailed championship after travel restrictions kept him locked out of New Zealand.
But now it is the same issue facing Vodanovich who was slated to contest a Super3 campaign with the Erebus Academy in an FG Falcon across the ditch. Instead, he has been sat grounded at home while the championship kick-started in Sydney.
“Clearly with COVID 19 I haven’t been able to travel to and from Australia as intended,” Vodanovich told Velocity News.
“Unfortunately, I had to miss the first round of Super 3 with Erebus and at the moment I can’t see myself being allowed in to compete this year.”
Overseas border restrictions have problematised several of New Zealand’s international elites and hopefuls from fulfilling their racing plans. Vodanovich’s scenario is extremely similar to Toyota 86 rival Jaden Ransley who was set to land a drive in the TCR Australia championship only to have to his plans shelved at the last minute.
While an agonisingly annoying situation to deal with for our international stars of the future, the positive news for race fans is there has been a sudden surge of top Kiwi talent seeking seat time in and around the domestic scene.
Both the North and South Island Endurance Championships have been popular choices among the drivers, as has a possible Toyota Racing Series drive for our budding youngsters.
Plenty of opportunities exist for Vodanovich and he is certainly keeping all his options open.
“In terms of what’s next, we have a few international offers we are looking at, but NZ is something we are likely to focus on until there’s more clarity around the COVID restrictions,'” he explained.
“I have had a great racing background with Toyota, starting my Journey in an MR2 and then into the 86 series. It would be cool to press on with Toyota if there is a good opportunity there.”
Vodanovich did partake in the recent Toyota Racing Series official test from Hampton Downs between lockdown periods, and with uncertainty around how many international drivers will be able to enter the country for this year’s championship there exists a possibility of continuing his link with Toyota outside the 86 series.
“For now, the team will be looking at a few endurance opportunities and getting some seat time in our time attack Evo.
“I am also really excited to be keeping busy with the University of Auckland’s Formula SAE race team.
“The experience I can gain in the FSAE team in addition to my Mechanical Engineering degree will be hugely beneficial for my racing career.”
Vodanovich has ensured his Erebus Academy will come to something concrete in the future, though remains unsure when due to the global pandemic and uncertainty around international travel.
Vodanovich is still set to contest the non-competition round of the 86 championship from Hampton Downs on September 4-6.