Toyota Australia has officially launched the Toyota 86 Racing Series, with a bumper roll-call of 35 entrants confirmed for the first of five rounds on the 2016 calendar.
Entries for the new single-make category, which kicks off at this month’s V8 Supercars Winton SuperSprint, have exceeded even Toyota Australia’s expectations.
Entrants range from aspiring racers still in high school, to established motor sports operations running multiple cars looking to use the Toyota 86 Racing Series as a stepping stone in their driver development programs.
Eight competitors are 18 years old or under, with a span of four decades separating the youngest gun from the most seasoned campaigner.
New South Wales heads the list with 16 entrants, followed by Queensland (eight), Victoria (six), South Australia (two), Tasmania (two), and the ACT (one).
Underpinned by a straightforward and relatively affordable technical spec, the Toyota 86 Racing Series provides the perfect platform for budding competitors to develop their skills and gain exposure in the hope of progressing up the motor sports ladder, to V8 Supercars or an international career.
A prize pool of $125,000 gives up-and-coming drivers a shot at snaring a career-boosting budget, and an entry fee of $1,500 per round (including Bathurst), is the lowest for any mainstream national series; surely the most cost-effective way to impress many thousands of spectators and a huge TV audience, not to mention V8 Supercar team bosses.
To assist entrants on and off track Toyota is also adding selected professional racers to the starting line-up, with different drivers brought in throughout the season.
For Winton, the field will be boosted with the addition of V8 Supercars Hall of Fame inductee Glenn Seton, seasoned V8 Supercar ace Steven Johnson, and versatile and highly credentialed racer Leanne Tander.
These nominated “pro drivers” are not eligible for prize money; their primary role is to mentor regular competitors by sharing tips on everything from race-craft and driving technique to engineering set-up and team structure.
Toyota Australia Executive Director for Sales and Marketing Tony Cramb said the series has been more than 12 months in the making.
“In creating the series we aimed for an attainable, grassroots category to help aspiring racers step up to national competition. And it has already achieved that; connecting a fresh batch of emerging motorsport talent to the Toyota brand and the 86,” he said.
“The 86 is the perfect platform to help develop driving and engineering skills, and the racing series package has been designed to be affordable and fast. oyota is confident it will deliver close and spirited racing. We can’t wait to watch the field compete and develop over the season,” Cramb added.
The series is managed by AirTime Autosport under the leadership of prominent motor sports identity Neil Crompton, and commercial support has been building steadily in the lead-up to the opening event.
Commercial vehicle heavyweight Hino Motor Sales Australia has signed a multi-year partnership as Official Truck Provider, with a Hino 700 Series prime mover on hand to help transport category support equipment and pro cars to race rounds.
Toyota Genuine Motor Oil, one of Australia’s largest and most successful genuine oil programs, has also confirmed its support of the Toyota 86 Racing Series in 2016.
The Toyota 86 Racing Series
The Toyota 86 Racing Series is designed to provide an entry point and training ground for up-and-coming drivers, offering a confirmed prize pool of $125,000.
Open to all manual variants of Toyota’s cult-classic sports car, the series is part of the support program at selected rounds of the Australian V8 Supercars championship.
In 2016, the Toyota 86 Racing Series will run over five events: May 21-23 (Winton SuperSprint); August 27-29 (Sydney Motorsport Park SuperSprint); September 17-19 (Sandown 500); October 7-10 (Bathurst 1000); and December 3-5 (Sydney 500).