Canberra driver Cameron Hill will be lining up for the final Toyota 86 Race Series race at the Newcastle 500 this weekend, aiming for a positive finish to a year that’s had plenty of ups and downs.
The Toyota 86 Race Series is in only its second year, but has already attracted both a strong fan base and a number of promising young drivers, including Number 111 Cameron Hill.
While the series visits tracks across Australia and New Zealand, it has strong roots in Canberra – local icon Neal Bates’ motorsports team has been involved in the development of the series from its start.
“The most interesting thing about the series, is that the cars are all identical,” said Hill.
“This makes the competition very close, and it really does come down to driver ability. Because the races support the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, they’ve provided really good exposure for us over the last couple of seasons, which has been valuable,”
In fact, the series has strict rules for car set-up, with a control specification kit that was created by Toyota in partnership with Neal Bates Motorsports.
This helps even the playing field and ensure that drivers can succeed on the basis of talent, and not big team budgets.
It also helps make the sport more accessible. However, drivers can still reach speeds of up to 230kmph down the straights, and are competing for a prize pool of around $125,000.
“The standard Toyota 86 is already a very good car to drive, so the racing kit just refines the overall package for the racetrack,” said Hill.
“It’s actually very similar. In terms of straight-line speed it’s virtually the same, because the engines are standard,
“All the Toyota 86 race cars are fitted the control racing kit, which includes upgraded suspension, brakes, exhaust and data acquisition system, along with control tyres,
“And obviously then there’s also the safety gear – roll-cage, seat, harness and so on,
“But that’s part of what makes it so appealing to so many people – because it’s very easy to turn a standard Toyota 86 into a race car,” he said.
Born in Canberra, Cameron has lived here all his life and has no plans to move on anytime soon, with his race team workshop now based just over the border in Queanbeyan.
While the local motorsport isn’t large in size, Cameron says participants benefits from some high-quality facilities.
“As a kid I played tennis, but once I was about 12, my attention turned to go-karting,” he said.
“It’s hard to say no to the adrenaline rush when you’re doing over 100km/h and you’re only a few centimetres off the ground!,
“We have the kart track, motocross and hillclimb venues. There’s no permanent circuit racing track here so if you want to go car racing, you have to travel – fortunately, Wakefield Park is in Goulburn which is less than an hour away,” said Cameron.
“Because of this, I think, Canberra has turned out some good drivers. Mark Webber is the obvious one, but there have been some talented rally drivers as well, such as Neal and Rick Bates,” he said.
After a disappointing disqualification on a technicality at Bathurst, Cameron is hopeful of a strong result to finish up the season on Newcastle’s stunning street track this weekend.
“In terms of pace it’s been a really good year, I’ve qualified on pole position for every round and won more races than anyone else,” he said.
“Unfortunately we had some bad luck at the Phillip Island and Bathurst rounds which put us back to fourth in the championship,
“But if I can get a good result at this weekend’s final round in Newcastle, second place overall is well and truly achievable,
“I’m truly thankful for the support I’ve had from the Canberra community this year, especially the local ACT businesses like National Capital Toyota and Anytime Fitness,” said Cameron.
To find out more about the series, visit www.toyota.com.au/86/racing-series.
If you’re keen to support Cameron, you can download a special smartphone app that allows you to access special offers from sponsors and watch events on live streaming. It’s available on Apple and Android.
Visit www.cameronhill.com.au for more info.