NZ Performance Car - - Talk Circuit -

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.

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