With round one of the 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series out of the way, six more races lie in wait for seven drivers in the battle for the overall title.
Of those seven, 18-year-old Matthew Payne is the best placed full-time driver on the championship table.
His three successive third-place finishes over the New Zealand Grand Prix event leaves Payne on 81 points.
While newly crowned Grand Prix winner Shane van Gisbergen still theoretically heads the standings, the Red Bull driver will not be contesting the remaining two rounds.
Kaleb Ngatoa was another highly impressive rookie, sealing a trio of top-five finishes to leave him trailing Payne by 11 points.
Despite having never run the FT60 in full race conditions, Ngatoa stunned the paddock with a scintillating wet qualifying lap to secure pole position for the Grand Prix.
“I was stoked with how our first weekend in the car went,” Ngatoa said after the weekend.
“It was a big learning curve for me, but I am enjoying working with my team and want to thank my engineer and my mechanic for all their hard work.
“We will work hard over the week to improve myself and the car for round two where we can hopefully get a win or two.”
Reigning New Zealand Formula Ford champion Billy Frazer experienced an up-and-down rookie outing.
A handful of off-track excursions in the first two races left the 17-year-old battling among the midfield.
Still, Frazer ended the weekend as the third-best full-time driver, scoring top-ten finishes in every race. He sits on 42 points and will need a solid second round to slim the margin to the front runners.
Conrad Clark proved he is a weapon when the weather conditions turn tricky. Were it not for slipping off the road in qualifying, Clark may have been leaving round one with a Grand Prix pole added to his resume.
A couple of set-up mishaps, such as running with overly stiff springs on Saturday, meant Clark couldn’t live up to his full potential.
One of the most inexperience of all the full-time drivers in the field, Clark is just one point adrift of Frazer and no doubt an exciting battle will flare up between those two.
“First of all it was a huge accomplishment for us to even be racing this weekend,” Clark said.
“We were always going to be up against it from a car performance perspective having not had the same preparation at the other drivers, but I feel like we made some gains and have a good footing to build on for the other two rounds.”
An electric gremlin robbed Peter Vodanovich of a steady haul of points in the Grand Prix when his car shut off exiting the Porsche Dipper.
It means the former Toyota 86 champion is fifth in the driver standings. Still, he did show plenty of promise in what was his first-ever single-seater race weekend.
Being out of a race car for nearly three years didn’t help Chris Vlok on his return to the Toyota Racing Series. A troubled weekend had him struggle to match the pace of the front-runners.
He sits on 27 points but comes into this weekend with a bit more knowledge on the car and the competition.
Joshua Bethune rounds out the seven-driver field, four points behind Vlok. Steady improvements over the remaining six races will be the goal for the ex-Formula Ford racer.
Round two of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will be on Saturday, January 30 on the shorter Hampton Downs national circuit.
2021 TRS Championship Standings: