Kiwi Chris van der Drift will make it six New Zealanders on the grid for the forthcoming New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs having secured a wild card entry for the event on February 5th.
Van Der Drift was one of the stars when the New Zealand Grand Prix was last held in 2021, looking odds on for a win or a podium in the star-studded race until contact damaged a front wing and he was forced to pit for repairs. He returned to the race and charged home fifth.
He will be part of a one-off team for the weekend and will be supported by his endurance racing co-driver Lance Hughes and his Hamilton Asphalts company as well as Murphy Group, FNR Roading, Korrin Online Contractors and Steve Horne’s Tasman Motorsports Group.
The team will also field Billy Frazer this coming weekend at Manfeild and at the Grand Prix. It’s very much unfinished business for the 36 year-old Hamilton-based racer.
“My mistake in the Grand Prix has been bothering me for two years now!” he said. “I genuinely feel we could have won that day and I could have ticked that box on my CV, which every Kiwi driver wants to do of course.
“I know the car well of course and have done a lot of laps around the track so I hope I’ll be able to dial myself and the car in very quickly and be on the pace. There’s some incredible talent in this year’s Castrol Toyota FR Oceania field, so I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m up for it.”
Van Der Drift is one of the best talents to come out of New Zealand in the last 20 years, having excelled in single seaters, represented New Zealand in the A1GP series and got as far as a seat fitting for the reserve Honda F1 team seat alongside Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello just weeks before Honda pulled the pin on their F1 involvement in 2009.
Chris went on to be ultra-successful in the Asian Porsche Carrera Cup Championship and in recent years has settled back in Hamilton and demonstrated his skills in New Zealand’s endurance championships as well as mentoring young karting talent through his Veloce Karting concern.
He’s also one of Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand’s preferred drivers who help coach young drivers through their first experience of Toyota’s earlier FT-50 car and the current FT-60. He has also been a part of the development team for the FT-60 since it was introduced as the Castrol Toyota category car back in 2020.