Preview: 2017 Toyota Racing Series

Preview: 2017 Toyota Racing Series

9 January 2017 – After weeks of few motorsport events, 2017 kicks off with the New Zealand-based Toyota Racing Series, which has steadily grown in recent years. GPUpdate.net previews this year's five-round competition.

Launched back in 2005, with full support from the country's governing body, the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) is New Zealand's primary single-seater category, and offers a platform for upcoming drivers.

17 of the 18 runners in the inaugural TRS campaign were from New Zealand, with Brent Collins beating Andy Knight to the championship – Monegasque racer Walter Grubmüller was the odd man out.

Brendon Hartley, who classified fourth, would become the most famous name, making several Formula 1 test outings and winning the 2015 World Endurance Championship title with Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, while Daniel Gaunt and Chris Pither went on to race in V8 Supercars, and Wade Cunningham appeared in the IndyCar series.

Over the years, drivers from around the world were attracted; in 2011, Russia's Daniil Kvyat took part, while in 2012, New Zealanders were in the minority for the first time, as Britain's Jordan King, Italy's Raffaele Marciello and France's Nathanaël Berthon, among others, made the journey.

In 2014, Singapore's Andrew Tang became the first 'foreign' TRS champion, followed by Canadian Lance Stroll, now preparing for his debut F1 season with Williams, and British youngster Lando Norris.

2017 season entrants, machinery

20 drivers have signed up for the 2017 TRS season, with only three representing New Zealand.

Several Formula 1 teams have sent young drivers; Red Bull will be represented by Richard Verschoor, who won last year's SMP and Spanish Formula 4 championships, and Luis Leeds, who was third in British Formula 4; Marcus Armstrong recently joined the Ferrari Driver Academy; while Jehan Daruvala is backed by Force India.

Norris, who claimed last year's TRS crown, before tasting success in Formula Renault 2.0, will not be taking part, after withdrawing his entry to focus on a European Formula 3 title assault.

However, second to fifth in the 2016 standings will get another crack, with Daruvala, Brendon Leitch, Ferdinand Habsburg and Pedro Piquet, the son of triple Formula 1 champion Nelson, all confirmed.

Piquet was a contender until a poor final round 12 months ago, and is a favourite for 2017.

Drivers will race the same machinery: a Toyota FT-50, featuring a carbon fibre chassis, fitted with a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, Michelin tyres and Brembo brakes – all in, it weighs around 550kg.

TRS also leads the way in using specialist E85 fuel, made up of 85 per cent ethanol.

2017 calendar, points system

In 2017, the TRS will take place over five straight weekends from mid-January to mid-February.

Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Christchurch) hosts the season opener, which runs from January 13-15, followed by Teretonga Park (Invercargill), Hampton Downs Motorsport Park (Waikato), Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park (Taupo) and Circuit Chris Amon (Feilding), the final round of the 2017 series taking place from February 11-12.

Big points are on offer in each race, the winner taking 75, P2 taking 67 and P3 taking 60; after this, the scores are: 54, 49, 45, 42, 39, 36, 33, 30, 28... down to 12 for 20th, if all drivers finish.

All race weekends comprise three races; one on Saturday and two on Sunday – 15 overall.

Prior to the first race, a two-part qualifying takes place; the first phase determines the grid for race one, the second for race three. Race two's grid features a 'reverse' of the top finishers in race one.

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