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Highlands Winner Steps Up To National Championship

Queenstown racer Saxon Sheehan will put winning experience in his Toyota 86 at Highlands Motorsport Park to good use when he steps up to a full campaign in the Toyota 86 Championship in 2023.

Queenstown racer Saxon Sheehan will contest the Toyota 86 Championship. Picture Bruce Jenkins

The 16 year old Wakatipu High School student began driving at the tender age of 12 when his rallying dad Mike bought the enthusiastic youngster a ‘paddock basher’ for competing in grass and gravel autocrosses.

He carried on until the age of 15 when he stepped up to a Toyota 86 and the local Highlands Sprint Series for 2021-2022. Saxon used this experience to springboard into endurance competition earlier this year and finished a solid third in the 0-2 litre class and the New Zealand Endurance Championship finals – also held at Highlands.

Now though, he wants to spread his wings and race further afield against the best up and coming racers in the TR86 championship – which in 2023 celebrates its tenth anniversary.

“The competitiveness and professionalism of the series, plus the reliable nature of the cars were forefront in my mind when we decided to compete this coming season,” he said.

“Also Toyota’s fantastic backing of the series and the exposure competitors get if they want to further their career in tin-tops.”

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Competing in the South Island Endurance Series has helped clock up valuable miles and he’s taken part in Toyota’s recent media and test day events at Hampton Downs.

In addition to that, his preparation for the coming season has also included driver coaching from Tim White and former Toyota 86 runner Rhianna O’Meara-Hunt. Dad Mike has helped with 2WD tuition as well and time at the Hampton Downs Drive Academy has rounded off some pretty solid preparation for the youngster ahead of the forthcoming season.

It all promises to allow Saxon to hit the ground running, but he still intends to keep his feet firmly on the ground too. “Everything in the build-up has gone pretty well other than a slight brush with the wall at the media days in the rain,” he said. “I am getting a feeling for the car and what the various set up changes do to improve it or make the car worse and that’s a new and enjoyable process.

“Our goal is Rookie of the year and a 100% finishing record in all races. We believe that is achievable and we are concentrating our efforts on those goals.”

His James Marshall Motorsport run car will carry backing from Truck Moves New Zealand, Dayle ITM and GWD Queenstown when the series blasts off at a track he knows like the back of his hand – Highlands Motorsport Park – next month.

After the first round on 13-15 January, it’s a quick dash the following weekend to Invercargill’s Teretonga Park. The championship then heads north for the remaining four rounds. Hampton Downs’ longer configuration international circuit is the venue for the third round where the Toyota 86 Championship will be the major support category for the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix.

The teams get a mid-term break after that before the final three rounds at Taupo International Motorsport Park, Manfeild - Circuit Chris Amon and the season finale on the shorter national layout of Hampton Downs.

2023 Toyota 86 Championship

Rd1 13-15 January 2023 - Highlands Motorsport Park

Rd2 20-22 January 2023 - Teretonga Park

Rd3 3-5 February 2023 - Hampton Downs Motorsport Park

Rd4 17-19 March 2023 - Taupo International Motorsport Park

Rd5 14-16 April 2023 – Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon

Rd6 5-7 May 2023 – Hampton Downs Motorsport Park

© Scoop Media

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