Japan’s rising star Tsunoda heading to New Zealand

Japanese hot prospect Yuki Tsunoda will begin his 2020 racing season with a title challenge in New Zealand in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.

The 19-year-old 2018 Japanese F4 champion is – like Kiwi Liam Lawson who will defend his TRS title this coming season – a member of the Red Bull Junior Team. Tsunoda, also part of the Honda Formula Dream Project, will join championship winning team M2 Competition in a Red Bull liveried car for the all-New Zealand championship in the category’s new Tatuus-based 285hp Toyota FT-60 racer.

From Kangawa in the Kanto region of Japan, Tsunoda began karting in 2010, beginning with the JAF Junior Karting Championship, then moving to the regional class in 2013 and to the national class in 2014. He started circuit racing in 2016 in Japanese Formula 4 and immediately impressed, claiming his first podium with second on debut at Suzuka for the Sutekina Racing Team.

A full campaign in 2017 saw him secure fourth in the championship before his dominant 2018 season yielded eight pole positions, seven victories and the championship title. The Japanese F4 championship is regarded as one of the toughest junior formulae series to win.

This season he has competed in FIA Formula 3 Championship and in the competitive Euroformula Open series and has won a race in each category with Jenzer Motorsport and Motopark. Tsunoda’s team mate in Euroformula Open this season has been Kiwi Liam Lawson – the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing season champion.

The Japanese ace is in no doubt about the strength of the competition. “I’m really looking forward to the new challenge. I think that the circuits will be completely different to Europe,” he said.

“I know that the competition will be tough, there are a lot of very good drivers and many of them know the circuits. At least I have already had the chance to try the car. I had a day at Paul Ricard with M2 driving the car I will use in New Zealand. It had a different engine but otherwise it was the same car and that was a very useful test.”

“It is different to the car we race in the FIA F3 series and the Euroformula so it was very good to have the track time. I also got to work with the M2 team and they were very friendly and professional so that also makes me look forward to the New Zealand series.

“It will not be easy but I know that I must at least aim for consistent top three finishes through the series. I am looking for the Super Licence points that I need for F1.”

The 2020 championship will begin at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell in New Zealand’s South Island over the weekend of January 17-19. It stays in the South Island for the second round a week later, moving to Teretonga Park near Invercargill for round two.

The series then heads to the North Island for the remaining three weekends of racing. That will include the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, the New Zealand Motor Cup at Pukekohe Park and the final round, the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting over the weekend of February 14-16 at Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding.