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Category: Toyota Racing Series

Andrew TangFast and clean was the order of the day for Singapore’s Andrew Tang in this afternoon’s feature race, the Timaru Herald Trophy. Though he shadowed pole man Martin Rump through the 20 lap race, Tang knew he had the race under control after Rump crept forward at the start.

The jump start penalty dropped the Estonian three places in the results, allowing Tang his second win of the series. The pair had cleared out on the field at the start, establishing a gap on third-placed Jann Mardenborough of more than 5 seconds. James Munro, winner of the first race of the weekend yesterday, had started third but slipped one place in the opening laps. He hung on to fourth which became third once Rump’s penalty was applied.

That gave Andy Neale’s two-car team a double podium finish in the feature race. The team has now won three of the six races held so far.

There was disappointment for series front-runner Egor Orudzhev who was forced to pit on lap eight when his engine developed a camshaft sensor fault. Australian Macauley Jones was also in the pits with an engine problem, rejoining the race after an excruciating nine minute stop.

Winners this weekend were James Munro, who scored his first ever victory in TRS on Saturday, starting off pole; Jann Mardenborough, who won from pole in Sunday morning’s semi-reverse grid race; and Tang, who won from the front row. All three say their qualifying performances were crucial to their wins.

Mardenborough set the new outright race lap record for levels during Sunday morning’s race with a 57.693.

Martin Rump retains the championship lead on 329 points ahead of Jann Mardenborough on 321 and Egor Orudzhev on 282.

Photo by Bruce Jenkins.

James MunroChristchurch teenager James Munro won his first Toyota race today at Levels Raceway, Timaru.

The race was interrupted by a spectacular crash in the first corner which took six cars out of contention, but Munro’s first victory came in emphatic form, the 16 year old carving out a lead of almost four seconds over the 15 lap race distance.

He had qualified on pole in the first session of the day, with Steijn Schothorst behind him and lining up alongside on the grid; Egor Orudzhev was third and Damon Leitch started fourth.

Munro’s start was a perfectly judged balance of throttle and the grip despite pole being off the racing line and thus offering less grip than was available to Schothorst alongside him.

The pair surged ahead of third-placed Orudzhev and Damon Leitch and were into the fourth turn by the time the field tangled in turn 1.

A multiple-car crash there took out Matteo Ferrer, Macauley Jones, Andrew Tang, Michael Scott, Martin Kodric and Denis Korneev, none of whom were able to restart. Levin Amweg was also involved and lost his car’s nose cone, but was able to continue for another two laps.

The race was red-flagged and restarted under a safety car, negating Munro’s initial advantage, but he was able to extend a lead again over Schothorst.

“The car was really good today in qualifying and the race, I was really happy with it. I did feel a lot of nerves before the start because I had so little experience in these cars, but I was really pleased to get this first win,” he said.

Munro said going into the weekend he could not have imagined being on the podium, much less winning.

“I wasn’t sure how I’d go against the internationals, they are very quick. But I do really like this track, it’s very fast and very narrow, great for a driver,” he said.

The order at the chequered flag was Munro, Schothorst, Orudzhev, Damon Leitch and Neil Alberico.

The result propels Munro from 16th in the championship to sixth, while Orudzhev takes a narrow points lead with 210 over Estonian Martin Rump on 208. Schothorst is handily placed in third with 197 points.

The Toyota Racing Series, New Zealand’s premier motor racing category, is back on track at Timaru tomorrow with a 15 lap race at 11.00 am and the 20-lap feature race for the Timaru Herald Trophy. The first race tomorrow has a partial reverse grid dictated by a marble draw after today’s race. James Munro drew the marble, and was somewhat disappointed to pull an eight out of the hat, meaning he lines up on the fourth row of the grid.

Egor OrudzhevRussian driver Egor Orudzhev won the first major trophy of the 2014 Toyota Racing Series at Teretonga on Sunday, sprinting from pole position to the race win in dominant style. It was his second win of the weekend, the 18 year old having won the first race of the championship on Saturday, and he had also briefly led Sunday morning’s rain-affected race before sliding off the track.

The three races of the championship’s opening weekend were challenging for the 23-strong field, with two races held in hot dry conditions and one in chill, sleeting rain.

Orudzhev had pressured Steijn Schothorst throughout the first race and took the lead when Schothorst’s car developed a misfire, winning in style. He then, drew a nightmare eighth place grid start for the second race and powered through the field to lead before sliding off in the rain.

Then his weekend finished in fine style with a flag to flag victory in the feature race.

“It was a difficult race, this one. Our pace was not so good and I had a lot of pressure from Damon and Steijn. Lucky there are not so many places to pass and I was able to stay in front,” he said.

Orudzhev said he is enjoying his first visit to New Zealand.

“The weather, not so much. But the standard of competition here was very strong. Being consistent will be important now – I have had two and a half good races, I could have got more,” he said.
Close behind him in the final race was Invercargill driver Damon Leitch, who recovered from a harrowing start to the weekend when the wing came off his car in the first race on Saturday, sending him spinning into the gravel trap. Steijn Schothorst was third overall. Singaporean Andrew Tang had won the morning’s wet race and was in the thick of the battle for the feature race but went out with a left rear tyre puncture.

Te Puke racer Michael Scott was seventh overall and second Kiwi home in the Spirit of the Nation feature race and is top New Zealander for the weekend in his Zespri-backed car. Scott was forced to pit in the wet race on Sunday morning to repair a faulty rain light. he says if not for that issue he could well have amassed more points toward his championship challenge.

Scott set fastest lap in the feature race, a 55.102 in lap 12 of 20.

With fifteen races at five circuits over consecutive weekends, the Toyota Racing Series attracts rising drivers from around the world, drawn by the prospect of up to 3000 km of practice, qualifying and racing in the northern hemisphere winter season.

It offers aspiring local racers the chance to compete in modern ‘wings-and-slicks’ open-wheel race cars before heading offshore to the next step in their careers.

For the international drivers, the series offers five weeks of intense racing action that propels them back into their northern hemisphere seasons ready to win races and championships.

The championship is also among New Zealand’s most significant sports television ‘exports’, with the racing screened in up to 40 countries around the world. New Zealand coverage is on Prime and SKY TV.

Toyota Racing SeriesA record 19-strong international contingent among the 23-car grid for this year’s Toyota Racing Series promises tough competition as New Zealand’s premier motor racing championship begins this weekend at Teretonga circuit near Invercargill.

As the championship enters its tenth year, the strength of the overseas contingent raises the prospect that the title could be taken for the first time by an international driver. The overseas entry includes racers returning for a second run at the title and the son of three-times Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet. Pedro Piquet is moving up from karting into full-size ‘wings and slicks’ single seater race cars this year and is coming to New Zealand to get valuable experience.

Three overseas drivers who contested the 2013 championship are back to fight for the title: Jann Mardenborough (UK), Steijn Schothorst (Netherlands) and Andrew Tang (Singapore) will put their 2013 experience to good use from the first race. There are thirteen countries represented in the 2014 starting line-up.

Four young New Zealand drivers go up against the overseas entries including the current Formula Ford champion, James Munro of Christchurch, and Invercargill’s Damon Leitch, who has finished as high as third in the championship.

Invercargill brothers Brendon and Damon Leitch will have the early ‘home’ advantage, with the series’ now traditional first round at Teretonga.

Damon (20) will be contesting his fourth season of TRS. With a racing career that began in karts at age 7 he has progressed through Formula Ford to TRS.

Younger brother Brendon (18) is moving up from Formula Ford where he finished third in 2012 and was second in 2013 behind fellow 2014 Kiwi TRS entrant James Munro. Like his brother Damon, Brendon Leitch has a solid foundation of karting that began in cadet karts in 2005.

Te Puke’s Michael Scott (19) contested TRS for the first time in 2013. Like most young racers he also began his racing career in karting before moving up to Formula First, Formula Ford and on to the premier category. A full-time student, he is balancing his passion for motor racing with university engineering studies.

With fifteen races at five circuits over consecutive weekends, the series regularly attracts rising drivers from around the world, drawn by the prospect of up to 3000 km of practice, qualifying and racing in the northern hemisphere winter season.

It offers aspiring local racers the chance to compete in modern ‘wings-and-slicks’ open-wheel race cars before heading offshore to the next step in their careers.

For the international drivers, the series offers five weeks of intense racing action that propels them back into their northern hemisphere seasons ready to win races and championships.

The championship is also among New Zealand’s most significant sports television ‘exports’, with the racing screened in up to 40 countries around the world. New Zealand coverage is on Prime and SKY TV.

Pedro PiquetOne of Formula 1’s most famous names will be on the starting grid when the 2014 Toyota Racing Series fires into action in early January.

Brazilian Pedro Piquet, 15, the youngest son of three times Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet, has been confirmed to race and will join the 2013 TRS championship-winning team M2 Competition. Pedro will be accompanied to New Zealand by his famous father Nelson Piquet, who expects to attend all five rounds.

Piquet has raced extensively in karting and has most recently been driving in Formula 3 in Brazil to prepare him for TRS.

“My goal for TRS 2014 is to be competitive against the other drivers and gain more experience driving formula cars. Nowhere else in the world can you do 15 races in five weeks, so TRS is the best championship for drivers who are looking to further their knowledge and experience,” he said.

The championship has arguably become the choice of world champions. The Piquets are the second famous motor racing father son pairing to join TRS.

The 1996 F1 World Champion, Damon Hill, brought his son Josh to New Zealand in 2011 and 2012 with the aim of honing Josh’s single-seater skills.

Heading into its tenth anniversary season, the TRS has attracted an unprecedented level of interest from international drivers who will join their young Kiwi counterparts. Series organisers are preparing for an onslaught of young rookie talent as well as several drivers who will return for their second season of TRS when the 2014 championship kicks off at Teretonga, the southernmost race track in the world, in Invercargill on January 10.

Some of these young racers are already aligned with motor racing’s leading teams and are drawn to New Zealand by the prospect of five weeks of highly competitive racing which offers up to 3,000 kilometres behind the wheel as well as the chance to win the first FIA Grand Prix title of the season. The championship takes place during the northern hemisphere winter, when most circuits there are unable to be used.

Toyota Racing Series category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the series has earned a strong reputation over 10 years and has established its place in the global motor racing calendar “which is something that we can all be immensely proud of.”

“It has taken a consistent well managed approach over the years to firmly establish the series on the radar for young up and coming racing drivers. Attracting our second Formula One World Champion father and son is further proof of the respect this series now enjoys the world over. Teams from around the globe are now encouraging their drivers to New Zealand to maximise their ‘off season’ preparation,” he said.

Five New Zealand-based TRS teams will between them field 22 drivers for the 2014 championship. Thirteen countries will be represented in the 2014 championship which is contested at five circuits over five consecutive weekends, travelling from Teretonga to Timaru’s Levels Raceway and then on to the new Highlands Motorsport Park at Cromwell. Crossing to the North Island, drivers race the penultimate round at Hampton Downs in the northern Waikato before heading to Manfeild near Palmerston North for the 59th New Zealand Grand Prix.

The championship uses a single chassis supplied by Tatuus and are powered by a production based 1.8 litre four cylinder Toyota engine.

In almost a decade of top level racing action, TRS has promoted many young racing drivers as they progress their chosen career paths.

“Drivers who have competed in the Toyota Racing Series have been making their mark in a range of European championships this year, notching up podiums and race wins as well as challenging for major titles which is fantastic,” said Thomlinson.

Kiwi Mitch Evans, currently racing in GP2, just one step away from Formula One, is a TRS graduate and the youngest FIA Grand Prix title winner in the history of motor racing. He is a two time Toyota Racing Series winner, in 2010 and 2011, won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 2011 at the age of 16 and won the European GP3 championship in 2012.

Russian Daniil Kvyat who raced in TRS in 2011 as a member of the Red Bull Junior driver programme won the GP3 championship this year. He has just been promoted into F1 with Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team for 2014.

Ferrari development academy member Raffaele Marciello (TRS 2012) won the FIA European Formula Three championship this year and looks likely to step up into a professional career.

Palmerston North’s Brendon Hartley won the very first TRS race in 2005 before joining Red Bull’s Junior driver programme. He won the Formula Renault 2.0 championship in 2007 and is now a valued member of the Mercedes GP F1 simulator test team. Hartley is on the verge of signing a contract to join the driving line up for Porsche in their brand new LMP 1 Le Mans Sportscar team.

Kiwi Nick Cassidy emerged as TRS champion in both 2012 and 2013 and also won the New Zealand Grand Prix titles in the same years– a result he calls the ‘double-double’. Cassidy has been competing in Europe, acquitting himself well as he searches for a break into the upper echelons of motor racing.

“We have a sensational line up of drivers coming to the championship this year. Our young Kiwis will face a strong challenge to hold the title in New Zealand. Could this be the year an international driver scoops the titles? Or will a New Zealand driver once again emerge triumphant?”

Irish racer Ryan Cullen is the latest signing to the 2013 Toyota Racing Series. The 21-year old racer is coming south with his sights set on some tough competition on challenging, unfamiliar circuits and will contest the TRS championship with New Zealand-based team M2 Competition.

Cullen says New Zealand’s home-grown premier race series has gained a reputation in the northern hemisphere for being a place where rising race stars can hone their race-craft and sharpen racing skills in a short but intense five-week, fifteen race format. After showing early promise in karting, Cullen arrived in the British Formula Ford series this year and fought his way through to sixth in his rookie appearance with three podium finishes along the way.

With that series now complete, Cullen aims to race with Status GP in the GP3 Championship next year. He is engaged in a series of track tests in other categories which – along with his TRS campaign – will help define the next step in his northern hemisphere racing career.

“I am doing four days of official post-season GP3 tests with Status GP this week at Jerez in Spain and will continue in Portugal in early November. I have done two days British Formula 3 testing, with more planned in late November and early December, and then it’s into TRS in January,” he says.

Cullen will be joined by the 2012 Toyota Racing Series champion, Nick Cassidy, who is also testing for Status this week at the Jerez GP3 session.

With the northern hemisphere circuits closed for winter, Cullen says he is looking forward to the Toyota series and the intense racing experience it offers. He knows he will have to arrive as prepared as possible with a competitive mindset.

“Coming from the northern hemisphere I am relying on completing some limited simulator work to get to know the circuits. I know I’m going to have to get to grips with that fairly quickly and be prepared to learn quickly. I am going down to NZ because I know it will be tough. You never get an easy win in the southern hemisphere in any competitive sport,” he says.

Graduates of the 2012 TRS have made quite a name for themselves in UK and European championships this year and the endorsements of some of these racers helped drive his decision to commit. In particular Jordan King and Josh Hill enthusiastically recommended TRS to Ryan and his father Patrick, who will also travel to New Zealand for the series. Cullen’s GP3 tests are with the Status GP team, which has strong links with Mark Pilcher and Jonathon Moury of M2 Competition. Pilcher says for Status, the opportunity to see drivers placed in a high-pressure short-duration championship during the northern hemisphere winter is invaluable. M2 Competition has confirmed it is planning to run five cars in the 2013 championship.

Toyota Racing Series category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the 2012 series delivered young racers like Ryan into a range of championships in Europe and the UK and many of them have gone on to produce some impressive results.

“We welcome Ryan onboard and hope that he enjoys his TRS experience and his time spent here in New Zealand as so many have over the past eight years. We are extremely proud that several of last year’s international and local competitors have already confirmed they will return which is a fantastic endorsement of the benefits the series has on offer.

They will be joined by a new group of talented young rookies with some exciting announcements to follow in the coming weeks, and of course we are always keen to talk to all interested drivers about TRS,” says an enthusiastic Thomlinson.

New Zealand’s premier ‘open-wheel’ race category, the Toyota Racing Series, has announced its 2013 calendar and already the first international drivers are signing on to compete alongside rising Kiwi race talent.

Entering its ninth season, the series has continued to increase its European profile year by year, with graduate racers excelling in a wide variety of categories offshore. This continues to fulfil the TRS mission of acting as an incubator for talented drivers from New Zealand and overseas, giving them invaluable training and experience in ‘wings and slicks’ race cars as they look to develop their international racing careers.

Toyota Racing Series category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the series has earned a strong reputation in the motor racing world “which is something we can all be immensely proud of.”

“It has taken some time to develop but we are now firmly on the radar for many young up and coming racing drivers and their teams from around the globe. Responding to supportive feedback from drivers, teams and managers, the 2013 series will once again follow our established successful format which features 15 races over five consecutive race weekends.”

The five round championship starts on January 10-13 at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park, the southernmost permanent motor race venue in the world. The feature race will be contested over 20 laps for the Spirit of a Nation Cup.

The series then heads north via a now-traditional Queenstown adventure stop to arrive in Timaru the following weekend. The feature race there is for the Timaru Herald Trophy.

The mid-point of the championship sees competitors cross Cook Straight and arrive in the North Island resort town of Taupo for the third round, where they will contest the feature race for the Denny Hulme Memorial Cup.

Then the series heads to New Zealand’s newest race track, Hampton Downs in the north Waikato, where the TRS feature race winner will be presented with the NZ Motor Cup, one of the oldest and most prestigious trophies contested in New Zealand motorsport.

The series culminates with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild, which also sees racers compete for the Dan Higgins Trophy and the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup. The New Zealand Grand Prix is one of only two FIA-recognised national Grand Prix titles raced outside of Formula One.

Barrie Thomlinson has recently returned from his annual trip to the northern hemisphere to observe the progress of the 2012 ‘graduates’ and to talk with drivers, managers and teams about the 2013 series.

“The northern hemisphere is where many of the world’s rising talent are competing. We talk to many of them about the series and explain the undoubted benefits of heading south to New Zealand when the European circuits are in the grip of winter weather and testing bans are in place for some of the categories,” he says.

This year, news of the series preceded him into the highest profile categories, with 2012 TRS graduates posting impressive results in GP3, British, European and German Formula 3, Formula Abarth and the highly respected Renault World Series.

“Drivers who have come through the Toyota Racing Series have been making their mark in a range of European championships this year and in particular the ‘Class of 2012’ have been notching up podiums and race wins and are challenging for major titles which is fantastic to see,” says Thomlinson.

New Zealand racing driver and double TRS champion Mitch Evans is scoring points consistently at the front of the field and is boosting the motorsport profile of this country as he battles for dominance in GP3. Driving for MW Arden and with Formula One racer Mark Webber managing his racing career, Evans has fought his way through to lead the championship.

“With Mitch doing so well we have a great ambassador for New Zealand and TRS,” Thomlinson says.

Also showing strong form is 2012 TRS graduate Félix Juan Serrallés IV, who is tipped to be the most successful driver to ever emerge from the Caribbean island nation of Puerto Rico.

Serrallés is currently second in the British F3 Championship and credits his 2012 TRS season with helping him to get on the pace instantly in his northern hemisphere campaign.

Announcing his intention to return and contest the 2013 Series, he told leading UK motorsport publication Autosport his results in British F3 “reflect everything I learned over there. There are so many races and no time to relax, it is a beautiful country.”

Racing for leading F3 team Fortec, Serrallés has confirmed he will also bring his young Brazilian team-mate Pipo Derani with him to race the 2013 series. Further local and international driver commitments are expected in coming weeks.

Jono LesterJono Lester has completed his first season in the Toyota Racing Series with a sixth place finish in the 57th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild over the weekend.

Leading into the final round of the 2012 championship, Lester held the Rookie points lead by a slender margin of 18 points from Austrian driver Lucas Auer and Brazilian Bruno Bonifacio.

Hopes to secure the prize were dashed in the opening race on Saturday afternoon, when a broken bolt in the rear wishbone geometry forced the 22-year old to retire from the race at the half way point.

Starting from the rear of the 20-car grid for race two, Lester capitalised on a well balanced race car to improve to eleventh position at the finish.

The 35-lap New Zealand Grand Prix started well for Lester. From a starting position of 12th, he passed a number of cars to sit in eighth after two early safety car periods.

Lester applied pressure to the rear of Frenchman Nathanael Berthon’s car for the next 20 laps, before tyre degradation set in and his lap speed dropped away a little in the closing stages.

Crossing the line in sixth place, Lester was happy with the event on the whole, despite the DNF (did not finish) in the opening race.

“We’ve been pretty competitive speed-wise this weekend,” Lester explained.

“Qualifying was again a bit of a let down, but the breakage in the opening race was just one of those unfortunate fatigue scenarios and there was nothing anyone could have done to pre-empt it.

“As for Sunday, we had a great race car. It gave me more confidence and I think we showed that with our results from lowly starting positions.”

Lester acknowledged there were positives and negatives to take from his first single seater racing championship, and that he fully intended to return for the second of a two year programme in 2013.

“This championship has frustrated me at times, but that’s a product of its intense competition and driving talent. It’s been incredible in that regard.

“Coming back for another crack at it is a given, so we will begin our debrief immediately and get things underway.

“A huge thanks to the New Zealand Motorsport Trust and all of my loyal partners for allowing me this opportunity. I believe we’re all excited at what lies ahead for next season!”

Lester was supported in his campaign by the New Zealand Motorsport Trust & The Lion Foundation, and partnered with Counties Toyota, TradeZone Industrial, Ports of Auckland, Vortex Racewear, Hornet Nutrition, Opti-Flex, Chemz, Webdesign, iSign it, R Redpath Limited, Sony Electronics, Tissot, Loaded Sports Drink and Zero Water.

Photo by Bruce Jenkins/TRS

Shahaan Engineer - Toyota Racing SeriesShahaan Engineer enjoyed his strongest and most competitive event of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series so far at Hampton Downs in New Zealand over the weekend, 4th/5th February, with a best result of seventh place in the second of three races.

Making huge steps forward in terms of his overall pace and skill, the 16-year-old – who has been consistently capable of making great starts throughout the TRS campaign – raced superbly across the weekend and produced some great overtaking moves, battling wheel-to-wheel with top talent.

While race two delivered the best result of the weekend, seventh from 13th on the grid, the headline encounter which rounded off the event, the 20-lap New Zealand Motor Cup, should have provided another top 10 finish – ninth to be precise.

However, an ongoing battle between two drivers just in front of Shahaan, at the exit of turn nine on the final lap, resulted in the pair crashing and forced the young ETEC Motorsport driver to take avoiding action through the gravel.

“I came out of the corner and there they were, scattered across the track blocking the entire exit of the corner”, explained Shahaan, “I had nowhere to go except the gravel trap because my reaction was to turn right and avoid the mess. By the time I got back on the track I had lost several places and finished 13th.”

The end result of race three was disappointing for the car racing rookie after a great drive through from 13th on the grid into ninth. With the exit of turn nine of the 2.8-kilometre track being blind though, Shahaan’s lightning reactions in avoiding a serious collision impressed his ETEC team.

Race one on Saturday afternoon was quite a sedate affair with Shahaan, and the majority of the rest of the top 15, all finishing where they started – in his case, 13th position. His race two result of seventh place was the best of the weekend of course but the tenacity and ability displayed in race three was a highlight.

ETEC race engineer Michael Olsen commented: “This has been the best week so far for Shahaan in the TRS, there has been a huge improvement in his technique, pace, consistency and mindset. Although we’re happy with the seventh place in race two, and we know the race three incident did lose Shahaan several positions, what’s more important is the learning and progress and the way he conducted himself throughout the weekend.

“There were two Safety Car periods, lots of blocking and overtaking, and he then did a great job of avoiding a high-speed collision in front of him. Shahaan showed great presence of mind to calmly get back on the circuit out of the gravel, against the odds, and still take home some respectable points.”

Of the 12 races contested so far in the Toyota Racing Series, the soon-to-be UK domiciled driver has posted 11 finishes with improving pace and consistency against a highly rated competition-base featuring racers with experience of Formula 3, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5. Furthermore, the rookie hasn’t been involved in a single red flag incident in any of the 24 practice sessions so far.

The grand finale of the five-event championship, rounds 13, 14 and 15, will take place next weekend, 11th/12th February, at Manfeild Autocourse near Feilding, New Zealand.

Photo by Toyota Racing Series.

Jono LesterJono Lester will return to his home circuit of Manfeild this weekend to take the grid for the 57th New Zealand Grand Prix, and the final round of the 2012 Toyota Racing Series.

Sitting seventh overall in the points standings as the leading rookie driver, Lester has competed in the Grand Prix just once before, as a 14-year old behind the wheel of a Formula Ford in 2004.

The 22-year old, now based in Auckland, is excited to compete for New Zealand’s most illustrious piece of silverware on the circuit built by his grandparents Rob and Wendy in 1973.

“It’s definitely the event I’ve been the most excited for,” Lester said.

“We tested here pre-season along with the other kiwi drivers and that should be an advantage, especially in the early stages, when we begin our free practice on Thursday.”

The fourth round of the championship over the weekend at Hampton Downs was challenging for Lester, who struggled again in qualifying managing just 12th position, improving to tenth and sixth in the opening two races.

Improving from a starting position of 12th to eighth in the final race, Lester was hit and spun from behind by fellow Kiwi Damon Leitch two corners from the finish of the 20-lap NZ Motor Cup.

Despite losing valuable points in the incident, Lester retained his rookie points lead from Austrian driver Lucas Auer; nephew of former F1 great Gerhard Berger.

“We have some regrouping to do after Hamptons to put us in the best position possible for Manfeild.

“Everyone will be throwing caution to the wind in that race, it’s going to be a cracker!”

Lester is supported in his campaign by the New Zealand Motorsport Trust & The Lion Foundation, and partnered with Counties Toyota, TradeZone Industrial, Ports of Auckland, Vortex Racewear, Hornet Nutrition, Opti-Flex, Chemz, Webdesign, iSign it, R Redpath Limited, Sony Electronics, Tissot, Loaded Sports Drink and Zero Water.

Photo by Bruce Jenkins/TRS