Rowan Shepherd joins Best Bars grid for 2021

Endurance and saloon car racer Rowan Shepherd joins an impressive field of experienced and up and coming racers in this year’s Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship.

A multiple champion in domestic motorsport including the 2014 National Formula First title, 28 year old Shepherd has impressed many with his skill and speed in a variety of racing machinery.

He caught the eye in international races too. In two TCR endurance races at Spa and Barcelona he was running in the top two overall for both rounds until mechanical issues struck in the final hours. He’s also gone well in domestic endurance races and showed prodigious speed in the recent Best Bars Toyota 86 Endurance Championship.

It’s that speed and consistency which he hopes he can transfer from the Toyota 86 enduros to the shorter sprint races that comprise the 2021 championship.

“I’m really looking forward to the sprint style of racing again,” he said. “It feels like a very long time ago since I last competed in this style of racing since moving my focus to endurance events.

“I’ve always wanted to compete in the 86 series so between Toyota and my sponsors we have managed to secure a full season that fits nicely with our budget. You really need to be able to squeeze all of the performance you can get out of these cars due to the field being so tight.

“Being a tenth off in qualifying in the endurance series put you in the middle of the grid so it’s a great challenge and I look forward to continue to try a lot of things to understand the setup changes of this car. Reliability and crossing finish lines have to be obvious ‘must do’s’ to try and secure the championship. There is plenty of talent in the class so as normal I will aim to be consistent and aggressive where I need to be and to try and find a little extra.”

Shepherd will make his debut in a field of 15 cars this weekend at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting and he does have some valuable experience on the 4km long international track which he hopes will be of value.

“It’s certainly different and has some tricky aspects to it and am interested to see how these cars go.” The Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship is one of the only official MotorSport NZ national championships that provides race drivers with the chance to secure a recognised national title. The Championship runs from January through to the end of March 2021 and has rounds at all North Island circuits.

Toyota New Zealand supports the Toyota 86 Championship with guaranteed television coverage and hospitality, providing a professional platform for competitors to gain sponsorship. TGRNZ also backs up the series with technical support and provides a 40 foot container of parts to make it easy to go racing at a national level.