NORRIS BACK TO DEFEND TRS TITLE
Lando Norris, the diminutive English teenager who won last summer’s Castrol Toyota Racing Series, is returning to defend his title. And he’s just one of a host of new and returning drivers set to make the 2017 series one of the most competitive yet.
Norris was the class act of the field last January and February, winning six races and finishing on the podium another five times, to complete the hectic 15-race series 132 points ahead of Jehan Daruvala of India.
“I’m really excited to be heading back to New Zealand to contest the Toyota Racing Series,” said Norris from his Bristol home.
“I thoroughly enjoyed racing in the TRS at the beginning of this year, which put me on the road to an incredibly successful 2016 season.”
“The five tracks are really interesting, and will get me race-sharp again for when I return to the European season in 2017.”
Norris’ success in New Zealand 10 months ago set him up for a strong season in Europe, where he won both the European and Northern European Formula Renault titles with a total of 11 wins and 12 other podium results, starting from pole position in 16 of the 29 races.
He contested a handful of British Formula 3 Championship races, winning four, before leaving the series to concentrate on the European events at tracks he will again race on in 2017.
Norris, who only turns 17 years old this month, will again drive a car prepared by the Hamilton-based M2 Competition team. “They’re a great team and talented bunch of guys who helped me achieve 11 podium finishes this season.”
Jehan Daruvala is another to return to the series for an additional tilt at the title, as is Pedro Piquet, son of three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet. Both have wins in the series, but did not deliver during 2016 to expectations and will be looking — to something of a degree — to reignite their careers in New Zealand over the summer months.
A new face in the series this coming season will be Shelby Blackstock — who has taken a different route to stardom than his famous mother, Reba McEntire, the legendary country music singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer. He has instead chosen to follow a motor racing dream which has seen him so far complete five seasons of single-seater racing in the United States. The first round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series at Ruapuna will mark his international debut.
Despite growing up in the world of country music, Shelby was drawn to motor racing while attending university, when he spent a day at the Bob Bondurant Driving School in Arizona. He finished eighth in his first season of Formula 2000 in 2012. Over the next two years he competed in the Pro Mazda Series, finishing third and fourth consecutively in the championship. He gained 12 podiums and one win over that period. Since the beginning of 2015 Blackstock has raced in Indy Lights, the series one step below the Indycar series. He finished 10th in 2015 and eighth this year.
All the drivers in the series will use a Tatuus single-seater car, powered by a 1.8-litre Toyota engine producing around 145kW while running on a E85. All cars use the same Michelin tyres, gearbox, suspension, and brakes to provide as close racing as possible, with driving skill being the deciding factor.
A full field of 20 cars is expected for the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, which will follow a familiar format, with free practice each Friday, qualifying and one race on Saturday and two races on Sunday at each round. It’s a series which has produced a number of the current crop of toplevel single-seater stars, including Toro Rosso Formula One driver Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ new driver for the 2017 F1 season, Lance Stroll.
Racing in the 2017 season starts with the Lady Wigram Trophy at Ruapuna, Christchurch, on January 14–15, and concludes with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding on February 11–12.