Grand prix still flagship

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 18/10/2012

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Fear not, says Bob McMurray, the New Zealand Grand Prix will be a hit at Manfeild, even if no-one knows what the support classes will be come February.

The New Zealand motor racing identity, with 30 years of experience working in Formula 1, was at Manfeild yesterday in his role as Toyota Racing Series (TRS) ambassador.

He was predicting 20 to 24 cars will be on the New Zealand Grand Prix grid and it seems the heavy imbalance of overseas drivers versus New Zealand drivers will be similar to this year's.

It is a tough ambassadorial role, with the domestic sport in turmoil and the botch-up which saw the NZGP scheduled on the same weekend as the national superstocks teams champs.

To offset that, McMurray and Toyota NZ are promoting their series as one which can almost stand on its own, despite the V8 SuperTourers having gone off independently.

They have dragged most of the best MotorSport New Zealand Tier 1 classes with them and court action between the two parties has taken place.

"That is water over our heads," McMurray said. "There is nothing we can do to influence it."

He just hopes in the future TRS and the grand prix will remain New Zealand's flagship marque. And who knows, they could be racing with the SuperTourers race in 2014, should everything come together.

McMurray said SuperTourers are doing a good job but that will really be proven in their second or third years, when new engines and gearboxes will need replacing.

"It's not cheap. New Zealand can't sustain two V8 series."

For now, TRS don't know what other formulas will be racing alongside them this summer.

McMurray is almost certain last year's grand prix winner Nick Cassidy will be back. The Aucklander has a team and car sorted.

After last year's NZGP, 2011 winner Mitch Evans almost ruled out returning for the race at Manfeild, but McMurray said Evans has since told him he will try to come back. He is in Europe and it depends on how he fares raising funds to race in GP2 in Europe next year.

Damon Leitch and Chris Vlok are likely Kiwi starters but don't bank on more than five New Zealanders on the grid again.

"That's what TRS is for, to help New Zealand drivers get on the road to international stardom," McMurray said.

He stressed the fact TRS is existing as an international class in New Zealand is thanks solely to the New Zealand branch of Toyota.

He said the NZGP is known around the world and Manfeild's will again climax the five-round series. "Toyota are very upbeat about the number of people [drivers] coming here."

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McMurray said the balance of international and New Zealand drivers won't be known until the overseas formulas finish in Europe, or as McMurray put it, what's left after "they put their car into a wall at Hockenheim".

Accommodation for the NZGP will be at a premium, even in Feilding, because most of it has been booked by stockcar fans that same weekend.

- Manawatu Standard

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