Toyota Series delivers ‘best ever’ young talent

A record number of overseas racing drivers will compete in New Zealand’s International Toyota Racing Series from mid-January until mid-February 2012.

Josh Hill, grandson of Graham Hill and son of Damon Hill, is returning for a second TRS season and is one of 15 visiting drivers. It is the largest overseas entry in the history of any New Zealand open-wheeled, International racing championship.

The organisers of the eighth TRS series believe their new five-round, back-to-back format is partly responsible for the surge in competitor numbers.

Toyota New Zealand General Manager John Fowke said that Toyota and TRS Teams are looking forward to welcoming and hosting this impressive lineup of International competitors and watching the keen competition with our top young drivers.

The 15 young International drivers will join a contingent of New Zealand drivers, ensuring a diverse and competitive line up when racing begins at Invercargill’s Teretonga circuit on January 14-15th.

The series moves north from Invercargill to Timaru, Taupo, and the Hampton Downs circuit in the Waikato region on successive weekends leading up to the grand finale – the 57th New Zealand Grand Prix at the Manfeild circuit near Palmerston North on February 12th.

Several of the drivers who are set to compete have come from high level categories such as GP2, World Series Renault and Formula 3 while others are in the early stages of developing their careers after competing in junior single seater categories and world karting.

Two Italians – one a protégé of the Ferrari Formula 1 team, the other a 24-year-old female driver making a switch from touring cars to open-wheeled racing – will compete alongside competitors from Britain, Holland, France, Austria, Puerto Rico, Brazil, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia.

Included in the exciting line-up is the nephew of former McLaren and Ferrari F1 star Gerhard Berger, another driver who has recently driven in the young driver F1 evaluation testing in Abu Dhabi; and also Hannes van Asseldonk who finished fifth in the recent Macau Grand Prix.

Josh Hill was one of the most improved drivers as the 2011 TRS season unfolded, his performances culminating in a fourth place in the New Zealand Grand Prix last February. Hill returns after a season in British 2.0 Renault racing.

Raffaele Marciello who is already being guided in his career by the Ferrari Driver Academy, was the first International driver to declare his TRS entry. Known as ‘Lello’ the Italian teen will have his 17th birthday next weekend. Marciello has raced in Formula Abarth and Italian Formula 3 and been a front runner in his first two seasons of car racing after a successful karting career.

Much attention will be centred on the other Italian competitor Michela Cerruti. Her background is in saloon car racing and she has driven a variety of powerful Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Mercedes cars at events throughout Europe during the last couple of seasons.

At the age of 24 – and currently the oldest driver in the youthful entry list – the Roman blonde competing in a pink car – has recently been testing GP3 cars in preparation for her switch to single seater racing.

Austrian driver Lucas Auer, the 17-year-old son of Gerhard Berger’s sister Claudia, is yet another accomplished kart racer. Auer has been racing in single seaters in Asia in 2011.

Frenchman Nathanael Berthon is the most experienced driver in the line-up and has chosen to compete in TRS to keep himself race fit for his 2012 European campaign. Aged 22, Berthon emerged from the 2.0 Renault series to compete in both World Series Renault and GP2 in Asia and Europe during the last two seasons. He tested a Formula 1 car with the Hispania team in Abu Dhabi last month.

The other French driver is Victor Sendin, yet another 16-year-old who continues to make his transition to cars after a successful karting career. The talented Parisian driver is being guided by former A1GP French drivers Alexandre Premat and Nicolas Lapierre.

The Netherlands will have a strong representative on the TRS grid with Hannes van Asseldonk. The 19-year-old Dutchman was a team mate of New Zealand driver Richie Stanaway in Europe and finished a very impressive fifth at the recent Macau Grand Prix. He was also fifth in this year’s German Formula 3 Championship.

South American entries are from Bruno Bonifacio, a Brazilian who has been racing in Formula Abarth in Italy, and Felix Serralles from Puerto Rico. Bonifacio is managed by well-known Brazilian driver Roberto Streit while Serralles has benefitted from a Team USA Scholarship to launch into European 2.0 Renault racing.

Another competitor from Britain’s Renault series is 17-year-old Englishman Jordan King. He’s just completed his first full season in single seaters by taking sixth overall in the recent ‘winter’ series.

From Asia there are entries for 23-year-old Malaysian driver Melvin Moh,19-year-old Tanart Sathienthirakul from Thailand and the youngest driver on the grid, 16-year-old Shahaan Engineer who was born in India and lives currently in Dubai. Also born in India is Sheban Siddiqi, a 23-year-old who has been racing in the ADAC Formula Masters series in Germany.

Australia will be represented by just one driver, Perth-based Jordan Oon who will race with the successful Australian BRM team.

“The impressive overseas entry for our 2012 season is a positive response from drivers, teams and managers to the calendar improvements that we have instigated. The prospect of an even more concentrated testing and racing schedule than we’ve been able to offer in previous years, has undoubtedly increased interest in racing ‘Down Under’ during the New Zealand summer,” said TRS Category Manager Barrie Thomlinson.

“This increased level of competition will benefit the young New Zealand drivers too, so we have the prospect of some thrilling racing. Our 2012 visitors are drawn from a wide variety of European competitions and it will be intriguing to see them compete over the five weekends.”

“It is a great testament to the emerging role of TRS as a recognised training ground for young International drivers that we get to see these drivers here in New Zealand.”

Footnote: Follow the link below for the list of confirmed competitors in the 2012 International Toyota Racing Series as of today, December 12th.

TRS Competitors as 12 Dec 11

12th December , 2011
For further information please contact:
Barrie Thomlinson
Telephone: (09) 270 2759
Mobile: 021 984 639

Murray Taylor
Telephone: (09) 445 0209
Mobile: 027 294 7930


2012 International Toyota Racing Series
Round 1: 12-15 January Teretonga Park, Invercargill Spirit of a Nation Cup
Round 2: 19-22 January Timaru Raceway, Timaru Timaru Herald Trophy
Round 3: 26-29 January Taupo Motorsport Park Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy
Round 4: 2-5 February Hampton Downs, Auckland New Zealand Motor Cup
Round 5: 9-12 February Manfeild, Feilding New Zealand Grand Prix
(Dan Higgins Trophy and Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup)