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Toyota 86 season to launch in Townsville

03 Jul
Season 8 of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia 86 Series begins
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The search for Australia’s next circuit racing star begins this weekend, as the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia 86 Series launches into season 8 at the NTI Townsville 500.

Since the debut event at Winton in 2016 the series has helped launch an array of impressive young talent.

Four current Repco Supercars Championship drivers have graduated from this competitive feeder series, including Will Brown, Broc Feeney, Cameron Hill and Declan Fraser.

Notably 3 Supercars teams, Walkinshaw Andretti United, Grove Racing and Tickford Racing will have representation on the competitive 34-car grid.

18-year-old WAU mechanic, Matthew Hillyer will get behind the wheel. Grove junior driver, Oscar Targett makes his debut. And Tickford will be supporting 16-year-old rookie, Rylan Gray.

Famous racing names will also feature, with 2022 Townsville race winner, Clay Richards returning for 2023.

While Max Geoghegan, grandson of Supercars Hall of Fame member, Ian Geoghegan will make his debut, coming off a win in the new TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia Scholarship Series.

Also on the entry list are two invited guest drivers, handpicked by Toyota Australia.

They include reigning Australian Rally Champion, Lewis Bates and three-time Repco Bathurst 1000 starter, Jayden Ojeda.

Speaking to Supercars.com, Ojeda said he is excited to compete under the Toyota banner.

“It’s awesome. Obviously Toyota has been around for a really long time and the 86 Series has proven to be a great entry level category for kids coming straight out of karts," he said.

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“To be able to jump in and represent Toyota as a brand and also mentor some of the drivers across the weekend is something I enjoy doing as a driver coach on a daily basis.”

A favourite to run at the front of the field is 2022 Kaizen Award winner, Jarrod Hughes.

The Queensland teenager netted pole position last time out at the Reid Park street circuit.

The result was a highlight of a year that ultimately finished with Hughes being awarded a trip to the 2023 Daytona 500 for his continual improvement.

“I was very lucky to get a trip over to America and I can’t thank Toyota Australia enough.” Hughes said ahead of the opening round.

“They’re on another level over there and Shane van Gisbergen has now gone over and just won in NASCAR, so it’s a pretty cool place.”

“After some strong results last year we’re looking to try and take away the title this season. And to be honest a lot of the things I was able to learn on that trip I’m hoping to implement this year.”

The five event series, the last for the current Toyota 86 ahead of the arrival of the new GR86 race car in 2024, will again feature substantial prize money, with $50,000 available to the series winner.

As well as providing a great stepping stone for future talent, the Toyota 86 race cars have also proven to be a handy training tool for experienced professionals.

With Supercars regulars such as Shane van Gisbergen and Anton de Pasquale regularly taking to the wheel of an 86 to hone their racecraft at the Norwell Motorplex on the Gold Coast.

Catch the opening event live on Fox Sports, Kayo and the Seven Network this weekend.

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