International sporting events are not an everyday occurrence in Southland but Teretonga Park in Invercargill has for over 60 years been one venue that has regularly hosted top class racing drivers from all over the world.
It will do so again early next year when from 24-26 January the annual Speedworks Events Motorsport NZ Premier Championship meeting featuring the Castrol Toyota Racing Series visits the circuit.
The series has brought many up and coming stars to Southland over the last few years with four of them now racing at the pinnacle of the sport – Formula 1. Lando Norris (McLaren), Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Daniil Kvyat (Torro Rosso) and Nicholas Latifi (Williams) were not that long ago here in the south racing at Teretonga Park and in 2020 will line up in Formula 1.
January’s grid looks more than capable of adding to that tally. Defending champion, kiwi Liam Lawson, returns after spending 2019 in Europe racing as part of the Red Bull Junior Team in European Formula 3 where he scored two podiums and also in the Euroformula Open Championship where he had four wins. At seventeen he is one of New Zealand’s great hopes to make it to Formula 1 in the near future.
However the competition will be tough with this year’s grid looking to be one of the best for many years. The 2018 Formula 4 Champions from Germany, Japan and Spain will all compete. Lirim Zendall (20), based in Germany, won the 2018 German title with ten race wins and is part of the Sauber Junior Team. He raced in the 2019 FIA Formula 3 Championship. From Japan comes 19-year-old Yuki Tsunoda who won the Japanese F4 title in 2018 with seven wins on the way to the title. Tsunoda now races in Europe where he too is part of the Red Bull Junior Team. Seventeen-year-old Amaury Cardeel of Belgium was the 2018 Spanish F4 Champion, winning seven races during his title quest.
Henning Enqvist (25) from Sweden comes to Teretonga from LMP2 and LMP3 Endurance racing and has wins in the Paul Ricard and Magny Cours 4 hours races and has competed in the Le Mans 24 classic. He comes to New Zealand to prepare for the 2020 Le Mans Series. Fellow Swede 18-year-old Lucas Petersson was the United Arab Emirates Kart Champion before contesting Formula 4 in the UAE and Formula 3 in Britain.
Seventeen-year-old French Karting Champion Emilien Denner is making his car racing debut in this series after a well credentialed karting career while Igor Fraga, of Brazilian descent but born in Japan, finished in the top three of this seasons Formula Regional European Championship and has a huge list of achievements in both karting and motor racing in Brazil, Asia and the US. He is also a very successful e-sports racer, winning the 2018 Gran Turismo Nations Cup and the 2019 Gran Turismo Manufacturers Series.
Others on the grid so far – twenty drivers are expected – are Rui Andrade, a 20-year-old from Angola, sixteen-year-old Axel Gnos of Switzerland, Ido Cohen of Israel, Jackson Walls of Australia and the only other kiwi on the grid so far, former BNT V8 driver Chelsea Herbert.
Most of the entrants come from top motor race series from all parts of the globe, many of them determined to make it all the way to Formula 1 like many of those that have raced here before them.
The series carries FIA Super Licence points, an attraction for young international drivers looking to reach the upper echelons of the sport. Super Licence points are required for drivers to advance into the major series around the world.
The other feature of his years series is a new car. The new FT-60 chassis fitted with a 280-horsepower engine and Hankook Tyres is a bigger, faster car than the older FT-50 chassis that it replaces.
The programme will also include TR86, Formula 1600, Porsche and drifting with D1NZ making for a fantastic event for which full details will soon be available.