Markelov heads strong line-up for 2015 Toyota Racing Series
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A Russian driver contesting the international GP2 series and the 2014 Italian F4 champion head a strong grid of international and local drivers for the 2015 Toyota Racing Series.
Artem Markelov (20) was New Zealander Mitch Evans' team-mate in the 2014 GP2 series.
Markelov and Evans contested this year's GP2 series with the Russian Time team. GP2 is one of the main pathways into Formula One and it will be the first time in the 11 year history of New Zealand's Toyota Racing Series (TRS) that it includes a current GP2 series competitor.
Canadian Lance Stroll won this year's Italian F4 championship and is supported by Ferrari's Drive Academy as he prepares to step up to the European Formnula 3 championship in 2015.
Toyota Racing Series is New Zealand's premier motor racing championship. It will be contested over five consecutive race weekends in January and February 2015. Drivers will race on five New Zealand race circuits from Hampton Downs in the north to Invercargill in the south for some of the most prestigious trophies in New Zealand motor racing including the 60th anniversary of the New Zealand Grand Prix. Up to 14 countries will be represented in this year's championship.
Toyota Racing Series Manager Barrie Thomlinson says the championship has attracted another 'fantastic' grid of rising stars from New Zealand and around the world. He says competition for the series and the NZ Grand Prix titles will be intense.
"The depth of talent arriving in TRS in 2015 from from many different series makes it very difficult to pick the stand-out drivers," he said.
Italy's Prema team working in association with the Ferrari Development Academy (FDA) will bring to NZ the Italian F4 series champion Lance Stroll as he prepares to step up to the 2015 FIA Formula Three series. Canadian Stroll and another yet to be announced Prema driver will be supported by FDA engineers during their TRS campaigns.
Several drivers join TRS from FIA Formula Three series. American Santino Ferrucci (16) finished seventh in the prestigious 2014 Macau Grand Prix.
Scottish-born driver Sam MacLeod comes to New Zealand fresh from finishing fourth in the 2014 British Formula 3 Championship.
There will be at least three New Zealand drivers in the championship.
Returning to TRS is Invercargill driver Damon Leitch.
Christchurch's James Munro won the 2014 Formula Master China series and will make his second foray into TRS in 2015.
Another Invercargill driver, Jamie Conroy, is the current New Zealand Formula Ford champion and goes up against recently-crowned Australian Formula Ford champion Thomas Randle.
This year the New Zealand championship introduces the latest Toyota Tatuus FT-50 single-seater, powered by the proven Toyota 2ZZ-GE 1.8-litre engine. The new car features the latest Sadev six speed transmission with 'paddle' gearshift along with the latest FIA-specification driver safety systems, enhanced aerodynamics and braking.
Many drivers who have risen through TRS have gone on to impressive racing careers. The championship has been an important step in the careers of the past three GP3 Series winners: Mitch Evans (2012, now racing in GP2 with the support of Mark Webber); Daniil Kvyat (2013), who made his Formula One debut this year with Scuderia Toro Rosso and steps up to the Red Bull Racing drive vacated by Sebastian Vettel; and Alex Lynn, who was second in TRS in 2013, won the 2013 Macau Formula Three Grand Prix and has recently also tested in Formula One.
Category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the New Zealand and international driver announcements are a further endorsement of the Championship's pivotal role in the careers of emerging single-seater drivers from around the world.
"All indications are that we have a very exciting grid of drivers from New Zealand and around the world," he said.