So after 5 weeks of grueling racing on both the south and north islands of New Zealand, another great season of the Toyota Racing Series season comes to an end. As the series starts its second decade, in my opinion it’s now the top feeder series in the world for FIA Formula 3 – GP3 GP2 And Renault 3.5.
The new FT50 by Tatuus was awesome – better safety in all aspects, new suspension, better aero package and paddle shift and in-line with what these youngsters will be using in their regular seasons ahead in Europe.
It was a great 5 weeks of racing and, as always, the competition was as intense as ever. I got to do some fun Speedcast Interviews for our Speed City Broadcast radio show and podcast, and it was great to get some insight into what these young Formula 1 hopefuls are all about.
If you’re a commentator or journalist worth your salt, there’s no question that you should look at what comes out of this amazing series each February. Jann Mardenborough of Wales is now the Nissan factory driver for Le Mans. Alex Lynn after TRS won the Macau Grand Prix and is now a development driver at Williams F1. Danial Kyvat, another graduate, is filling Vettel’s boots at Red Bull. Rafaele Marchiello is now with Sauber. Jordan King has gone to GP2 and Egor Oridisev with Renault 3.5. Last year’s New Zealand Grand Prix winner Nick Cassidy went on to be a podium winner at Macau and has just been snapped up by Tom’s Toyota F3 in Japan.
The list is endless. Richie Stanaway, Mitch Evans, Brendan Hartley and Earl Bamber are all now household names and are all Kiwi’s following in the footsteps of TRS ambassador Chris Amon – the nicest man I’ve met in motorsport.
And so once again this year many of them arrived unknown and head home ear marked for greatness.
For me, the champion has never been more deserving then this year. 16 year-old Canadian Lance Stroll – to quote that famous poem– kept his head when all around were loosing theirs. With a maturity beyond his years, he went about the business of winning, and more importantly, staying out of trouble with equal alacrity.
Consistancy is the key over 5 weeks and 16 races, and Stroll showed a maturity way behind his years. I asked in our interview who he looked up to in racing and he replied “Nobody. I just want to be me.” And so he is. He may have the silver spoon in his mouth, but that is so often a double edged spoon so to speak, as there’s a target on your back as having it easy – ask Max Chilton, Bruno Senna or Ralf Schumacher. Having money or a name in motor racing only goes so far in the cynical, high-octane world. The aforementioned men all made their success on their amazing ability to drive – not their name. Lance Stroll maybe the son of Lawrence, but this kid is the real deal – fast, polite, studious, a quick learner, smart as a whip, good looking and already part of Ferrari since he was 11 years-old. Yes, this man is the next big thing to come out of the Toyota Racing Series, but I think he’s also going to take FIA F3 apart – keep Prema Power as champions be in the running to the flag at Macau, and when he’s of age for the new rules of Formula 1, he will be more than ready to step up. Look out racing world… this man CAN walk before he can run. For him, it’s all just a “Stroll” and he’s more than taking this TRS latest victory in his stride.
Also watch out for India’s Arjun Maini, France’s Brandon Maisano, Scotland’s Sam Macleod and the USA’s Santino Ferrucci. They kept Stroll honest and will hunt him down around the tracks of the world for years to come.