Kiwi Karters Get Open Wheeler Race Opportunity

press release

Two of New Zealand’s most talented young karters have convinced Toyota New Zealand they both deserve an opportunity to race in the new TRS Lites single seater category during the 2010 Toyota Racing Series.

A recent evaluation of five top young kart racers at the Manfeild circuit was intended to select one driver for the inaugural Toyota Fast Track Award. However, the high standard achieved by all the drivers has resulted in both Alex Geary from New Plymouth and Graeme Smyth from Auckland being awarded a race in New Zealand’s premier single seater series.

Geary, aged 17, is the National 100cc Yamaha Lights Champion and Smyth, aged 18, is the National KZ2 Champion. The teenagers won their titles at the Kartsport New Zealand National Championships held in Hamilton during the Easter weekend.

They were selected for the evaluation along with Richard Moore, the 18-year-old National Open Champion and 17-year-olds Tim Vickers from Auckland and Tyler Richardson from Morrinsville, because of their performances at the Toyota New Zealand backed Nationals.

Above: Alex Greary leads Tim Vickers in Yamaha Light

All five drivers were invited to drive a FT40L car at Manfeild – the venue for the New Zealand Grand Prix round of the 2010 Toyota Racing Series.

“None of the drivers had driven in a wings and slicks single seater previously, and two of the young drivers hadn't driven a racing car on a circuit at all,” said TRS co-ordinator Barrie Thomlinson.

“All of the drivers impressed with their mature approach and apart from the odd spin, the evaluation at Manfeild went smoothly.”

Thomlinson said the final selection was made particularly difficult because all five drivers far exceeded initial expectations and this made choosing the winner a difficult task. 

“Two drivers’ performance and potential stood out on the day. Even after long deliberation we weren’t able to separate Alex and Graeme, so decided to select them both for a Toyota Fast Track Award,” said Thomlinson.

During the Manfeild evaluation each driver had two 30 minute sessions in one of the new FT40L cars completing approximately 30 laps. Driver coaching was provided by experienced TRS driver Sam McNeill from Palmerston North and race engineer Paul Feist.

Feist has worked with Carlin Motorsport in European Formula 3 and his experience here and overseas meant he was able to decode the data and explain the meaning of it to the young drivers. This enables them to analyse their performance and driving style as they experienced slick tyres and wing aerodynamics for the first time.

“The first session consisted of a five lap familiarisation run to learn the gearbox and cockpit controls. They then had a 10 lap run to settle into the car before a discussion with the engineer so they could begin to understand the data and concentrate on the areas which would yield improvement,” said Thomlinson.

“New drivers need time to experience the later braking and learn that a harder initial application of the brake pedal is needed in a wings and slicks racing car.”

“The second runs then allowed the drivers to settle into a faster pace and improve their lap speed before a stop for further instruction and a final evaluation run.”

Thomlinson said it was a challenging test for the karting graduates and he was genuinely impressed by the speed with which they made the transition to this car.

For Geary and Smyth the TRS Fast Track Award will provide an 'arrive and drive' race weekend in a TRS Lites car at a round of the 2010 Toyota Racing Series.

TRS Lites is a new 'class-within-a-class' created to ease the transition from karts or other racing categories to the TRS. The FT40L car uses the same carbon-fibre chassis and 1.8-litre Toyota engine as the FT40 championship car but has a detuned engine yielding 111kW compared to the 166kW of the cars that compete in the championship series.

The test day for the kart racers was a joint initiative between KartSport New Zealand and Palmerston North-based Toyota New Zealand.