Toyota Racing Series delivers big
Toyota Racing Series continues forward march, while the V8s have work to do
The Toyota Racing Series' 2016 season wrapped up last weekend at Manfeild Autocourse, and the response by the talented international drivers attending the series was impressive.
Here are some examples: "The best series of its type in the world."
"The best thing I could have done to prepare me for the Formula 3 season in Europe."
"Fantastic time, fantastic country."
"What a season. Hard work."
I have been involved with the series since its inception 12 seasons ago, watching Kiwi drivers like world sportscar champion Brendon Hartley, Le Mans 24-hour race winner Earl Bamber, GP3 champion Mitch Evans, many V8 Supercars winners, Bathurst 24-hour race winner Shane Van Gisbergen and so many more come through the series and go on to great things.
International competitors such as Formula 1 drivers Daniil Kvyat and Will Stevens. Winners of major races and series in the US, Europe and Asia and young members of Formula 1 development squads all The Toyota Racing Series at Manfeild last weekend. Picture / Matthew Hansen
eager and talented enough to walk straight into the very best racing organisations in the world.
This season was filled with arguably the best talent in those 12 TRS racing seasons and it remains the most international of any single-seater series in Australasia and Asia.
If you are a motor racing fan this is the best shop window to see the cream of tomorrow's world champions in the most up-to-date cars.
The series is home grown in New Zealand and races nowhere else in the world. Yet, like the staples of sport in this country -- rugby, cricket and all the other bewildering disciplines on offer -- the huge crowds do not come.
Good crowds, yes, but far in number from the many thousands who flocked to the events in the second half of last century.
This is a trend that is occurring in Formula 1, IndyCar, Nascar, even baseball and the NFL in the US, traditional "core" sports.
I strongly believe that without the huge commitment to the sport made by Toyota New Zealand very few, if any, of our current overseas drivers would have got close to the recognition they needed to enable them to get a foot onto the world stage.
Simon Evans performs a burn-out on the Manfeild track after winning the NZ Touring Cars series. The crowd cheered, officials glared. Picture / Simon Chapman
So, now that product is in such fine form, recognised as being so by the very best teams around the world, the rest of the product, or at least the way the product is delivered, must be brought up to a similar standard.
It has to be entertainment, and entertaining.
Attitudes must change.
NZ Touring Cars drivers Simon Evans and Andre Heimgartner were winners at the V8 meeting at Manfeild and in celebration performed burn-outs on the track to the huge pleasure of the watching fans. Pure entertainment that brought cheers and applause from the crowd.
They were then given $1000 fines by the officials for performing the burn-outs. Something's wrong there.
The V8 community has made big strides recently to try and repair the nearly fatal damage done to the category over recent years but there still needs to be more cars on the grid to approach anywhere near the fields on show just a few years ago.
Karting seems to be strong but the categories above it are similarly lacking in numbers and that is where our talent of the future will come from, the grass roots of circuit racing.
As the grids will hopefully grow so must the approach to promotion, to getting bums on seats and it seems the current model is not enough.
Tony Quinn, the owner of the successful Highlands Park circuit near Cromwell, Otago and now the owner of the north Waikato Hampton Downs circuit, has a vested interest in getting the crowds back to motor sport events and he has some interesting ideas that will not endear him to the traditionalists.
Revolutionary possibly, innovative certainly.
Quinn has the means, he has the drive, he has the ideas and he also has two of the best tracks in the country with which to exploit those ideas.
The Toyota Racing Series is a jewel in the crown of New Zealand motorsport, and perhaps it needs a Tony Quinn to make that crown part of a set of crown jewels.