Wed, Apr 17, 2024 10:08 PM

Ready to race


Peter Jones

Marlborough’s rising motorsport star, William Exton, faces a pivotal weekend of racing.

The 20-year-old is currently competing in the NZ Toyota 86 championship, a six-round event that takes place on the country’s best race circuits.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 19-21) the series culminates at Taupo Motorsport Park, with William sitting in second place in the drivers’ standings after five completed rounds. He is the only driver to win two rounds during the season, taking the honours in consecutive meets at Christchurch and Cromwell, and has accumulated the most pole positions throughout the season.

Heading into the final weekend, William lies just 10 points behind the leader, Hawke’s Bay’s Tom Bewley, and has every intention of bringing the championship home to Marlborough.


With vital points on offer across three races in Taupo, William is fully focussed on catching and passing the current leader.

This is William’s second year in the Toyota 86 series. Although he “picked up a couple of fourth placings” as part of the James Marshall Motorsport Team in 2023, he described it as “a learning year, with a lot more highs and lows”.

A move to the larger Race Lab Drivers Academy team for this campaign has seen an immediate upswing in results.

Fourth after the first round, he moved up to third in round two, retained that position in the third round, edged up to second in round four and closed the gap further on the leader in the fifth round.

William says several factors contributed to his improvement in 2024.

“I’m much faster than last year, so it is easier to qualify and easier to race because you are usually at the front … the car is a much better set-up for me to drive.

“My driving has definitely improved, the more laps you do the better you get. You are able to master the starts, get the gear changes right - plus Race Lab do a very good job with the race trainers they have, they are great mentors.”

Having raced karts at the top level for many years, including representing New Zealand on three occasions, William is well-placed to compare the two motorsport disciplines.

Wiliam hopes to be number one after this weekend.

“It has been a really big skill change, but a few of the skills are transferable, especially race craft.

“In karting you learn how you need to outsmart people, how to pull off a pass without getting passed on the exit. But in a car, you have got suspension, a six-speed gearbox, a clutch a brake pedal, you have to heel-toe, there is much more transfer weight, so it is a pretty big step up.”

Although he admits there is no bigger buzz than winning, William relishes close battles at the front of the field, while reaching speeds of around 200kph.

“Pretty much every round this year there have been five people who have been pretty close to the lead. I love being alongside those people, racing hard, especially when it goes your way,” he said.

Team dynamics play a big part in the driver’s fortunes. William and his father own the race car, but the bulk of the preparation for race day and beyond is left to the team.

“We give the car to Race Lab and they prep it, they put the set-ups in it, which are different for each track, they take me to the track sometimes for testing … throughout the weekend I drive, I do data with the team and then they pack the car up and take it home … the full package,” explained William.

Whatever the result in Taupo, this will be William’s last outing in the Toyota 86 class.

Later this year he plans to race in the four-round North Island South Island Endurance Championship, driving a Porsche 911 Gen 2 Cup Car.

“That will keep me busy for the rest of this year because next year my plan is to travel to Australia and do the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge over six rounds … it’s a huge series with some very good drivers involved.”

Before then though, there is some urgent business to attend to.

William has raced against Bewley since their time together on the karting circuit and, while he respects his rival’s driving ability, is confident he can outscore him over the three relatively-short races and provide a fitting climax to his Toyota 86 career.

The races will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 3, as a support category for the famous Repco Supercars championship.

The championship, which brings eyes from across New Zealand and reaches 50,000+ viewers, offers an opportunity for businesses to support local sportsmen and promote success for their company.

Racing at these levels is an expensive exercise, and William expressing his gratitude for the support of local businesses, including: Tractor Repairs and Spares, Te Pā Wines, Liquid Action, Gill Construction, Gramado’s Restaurant and Bar, Kurt Lindsay - Bayleys and Rob Blick Building. He is seeking new partnerships to assist him in this final round and following racing ventures. For all partnership enquiries please contact - 022 643 6801.

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