Young Kiwi scores last minute Toyota Racing Series drive
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There will be five New Zealand drivers on the grid during this year's Toyota Racing Series after Taylor Cockerton managed to put together a campaign at the 11th hour.
The 20-year-old joins returning Kiwis Marcus Armstrong and Brendon Leitch as well as rookies Reid Harker and Ryan Yardley in the five-round series starting this week at Ruapuna in Christchurch.
It is the first time since 2011 that five New Zealanders have competed in the full championship of New Zealand's premier domestic racing category.
Cockerton, the 2017 Formula Masters champion in Asia, confirmed his participation today after it initially looked like he wouldn't be able to raise the budget to compete.
"I'm really excited to be back for my third assault on TRS coming off the back of my strongest year of racing," Cockerton said. "After winning the 2017 Formula Masters Series in Asia there is a lot of pressure on me to win. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I actually only found out I could race last Wednesday. I was buzzing when the phone call came through."
All five Kiwis in the field are the product of New Zealand's Elite Motorsport Academy, which has helped almost all of the leading Kiwi drivers in what is now a golden age for the sport.
"The Kiwi Driver Fund has been so helpful to me the last few years," Cockerton said. "I wouldn't have been on the grid without that extra support, particularly for this season," he added.
Cockerton will be heading to Malaysia next week to test an Audi R8 GT3 before returning to New Zealand in time for the second round of the TRS at Teretonga, near Invercargill.
A total of 13 drivers are confirmed to contest the championship while a couple of others were still in discussions with series organisers at the time of writing. There were 20 cars on the grid last year with three New Zealanders taking part.
Dutchman Richard Verschoor led the championship for a significant portion of last year's series and knows the local tracks while Brit Richard Pull and Russian Robert Schwartzman look the best of the international drivers in the field.
The series gets underway this weekend.
2018 Toyota Racing Series field
#4. Reid Harker (NZL)
#5. Ryan Yardley (NZL)
#7. Richard Verschoor (NED)
#9. Marcus Armstrong (NZL)
#11. Taylor Cockerton (NZL)
#15. James Pull (GBR)
#17. Clement Novalak (GBR)
#28. Cameron Das (USA)
#35. Robert Schwartzman (RUS)
#44. Calvin Ming (GUY)
#52. Charles Milesi (FRA)
#68. Juan Manuel Correa (USA)
#86. Brendon Leitch (NZL)