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Toyota Racing Series a breeding ground of champions
Graduates of the 2015 Toyota Racing Series are heading into a variety of fiercely competitive northern hemisphere categories.
The New Zealand-based TRS championship gives young racing drivers experience of racing a modern 'wings and slicks' single-seater in a professional team environment. This year TRS attracted 21 drivers from 15 countries including four New Zealanders and one Australian. Drivers who race TRS during the southern hemisphere summer head back to championships in Europe, the UK and USA race-fit and ready for the challenges of WSR 2.0, Formula 3, GP3 and GP2, all recognised as options for drivers as they head towards Formula One and the opportunity of professional careers.
TRS driver Thomas Randle of Australia. Photo / Bruce Jenkins.
Even as the five week championship was reaching its mid-point, drivers were confirming their next steps, with many heading for the FIA European Formula Three Championship. With many 'national' F3 championships fading, the attention of the racing world is becoming more focused on the FIA European F3 series and categories like TRS that feed young aspiring race stars into what has become the most prestigious F3 series in the world. The Euro F3 championship starts on April 11 at Silverstone in the UK.
Young American Santino Ferrucci finished third in TRS and has signed to drive in Euro F3 with leading German team Mucke Motorsport.
Elite driver development squads have been sending drivers to TRS in increasing numbers. This year, Ferrari Driver Academy and the Prema Powerteam brought
Toyota Racing Series driver, Brandon Maisano. Photo / Bruce Jenkins.
championship leader Lance Stroll and French driver Brandon Maisano to the TRS. Stroll and Maisano have been confirmed to race with Prema in Euro F3.
Sam MacLeod is a member of the British Racing Driver Club's Rising Stars programme. He will join the Motopark team to race in Euro F3.
New Zealand's Nick Cassidy is a multiple TRS champion and three-time NZ Grand Prix winner. He was the official test driver of the new TRS FT50 race car and during the 2015 TRS season he also competed in two rounds of the Toyota Finance 86 Championship. Also a member of the BRDC Rising Star programme, Cassidy has been confirmed to drive with the TOMS Toyota team in Japanese F3 this year.
Toyota Racing Series driver, Artem Markelov. Photo / Bruce Jenkins
Young British driver Callum Ilott showed flashes of brilliance in TRS 2015. He was confirmed as a Red Bull Junior athlete during the course of the series and announced a drive with top team Carlin in FIA Euro F3.
Arjun Maini, fourth in TRS, is also heading for FIA Formula 3 in Europe. He was the winner of the Force India F1 Team Academy's 'One From a Billion Hunt' in 2011 which gained him support from the team during his campaign in Super One karting in 2012.
Australian Thomas Randle, a CAMS elite driver programme member, is heading into a season in Australia's new Formula 4 Championship.
Austrian racers Ferdinand Habsburg and Stefan Reiner along with Irishman Charlie Eastwood will all step into Formula Renault 2.0 series for 2015. The 17-year-old Habsburg was 11th overall in his rookie TRS season.
Toyota Racing Series driver, Afonso Celis. Photo / Bruce Jenkins
Mexican driver Alfonso Celis Jr will contest the GP3 series in Europe with ART Grand Prix and has also been confirmed to drive in Formula Renault 3.5.
Russian Artem Markelov, eighth in TRS, will return to GP2 with the Russian Time team and will likely be joined for a second season by New Zealand's Mitch Evans.
Young Kiwi James Munro hopes to compete offshore this year but has not confirmed his plans.
Other driver announcements are expected over the next few weeks.