April 12, 2017
YOUNG GUN GRID FOR TOYOTA 86 RACING SERIES
A grid of 38 cars dominated by drivers under the age of 21 will await lights out at the Toyota 86 Racing Series' 2017 debut at the Phillip Island SuperSprint later this month.
The larger 2017 grid sees the majority of competitors return from the 2016 season while 14 new faces, including two drivers from New Zealand's Toyota 86 Championship, have been welcomed to the fold. Invited professional drivers will participate in each round to compete against and mentor competitors.
Grassroots enthusiasm for the category is evident with 16 competitors yet to celebrate their 21st birthdays, and 11 listing their occupation as high school or university student. An age gap of 39 years separates the youngest participant at age 16 from the oldest aged 55.
The first car Declan Fraser (the youngest on the grid at just 16) has owned is the race-spec Toyota 86. Supporting his series campaign with money earned in his own small business, the teen from Mackay in Queensland aspires to be Formula One World Champion.
"I have seen the opportunities guys racing in 2016 have had and I thought it would be fantastic to get into. With the pro and mentor drivers and Supercars teams watching on, it will give me a fantastic stepping stone to learn how to drive a race car," Declan said.
With several Queensland Karting Titles, a 2016 Gold Coast Race of Stars win and having represented Australia in Las Vegas several times, Declan looks forward to the mentoring the series provides.
"It will be my first ever time driving a proper race car. I have never driven a road car by myself; I only got my L-plates at the end of last year. I will be learning throughout the whole series and I am excited to get into it," he said.
At 55, Graham Smith represents the opposite end of the spectrum, chasing a passion and taking every opportunity to improve his race craft.
"It's a great opportunity to have a level playing field to compare and improve your skills. The mentoring and support has been incredible and has helped a lot, especially at Bathurst," he said.
"Motorsport is my passion. This series is affordable: I changed an engine and gearbox and didn't have to mortgage the house to do it. The race-spec 86s handle well, they are nice to drive and the support from Toyota and Neal Bates Motorsport is exceptional."
Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the entries of Declan and Graham were exactly what the series aimed to draw.
"We are seeing more young drivers having their skills made known to marquee category teams and decision-makers through the series," Mr Cramb said.
"It's a competition that will take you up if you want it to, or provide a professional, affordable and fun platform for racing at Australia's most iconic tracks."
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 variants of Toyota's cult-classic sports car, the series is part of the support program at selected rounds of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
In 2017 the Toyota 86 Racing Series will run over five events: Phillip Island SuperSprint (April 21-23), Townsville 400 (July 7-9), Sydney SuperSprint (August 18-20), Bathurst 1000 (October 5-8) and Newcastle 500 (November 24-26).
For regular updates and more information go to https://toyota.com.au/86/racing-series.
In 2017, Toyota marks the 60th anniversary of its first international motorsport entry (and the first by a Japanese car manufacturer), when it contested the 1957 Round Australia Trial. This is why many people consider Australia to be the birthplace of Toyota motorsport. Today, Toyota contests the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC) which features the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gruelling Dakar Rally. Closer to home, the Toyota 86 Racing Series seeks to develop the talent of tomorrow as Australia's premier grassroots circuit-racing category.