For a country of only five million people, the nation of New Zealand certainly churns out its fair share of very fast racing drivers. Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America racer Ryan Yardley is another one to keep an eye on.
The Topp Racing driver finished the season on a high note after taking second place in the final round of the championship at Circuit of the Americas. The result came after several “near-miss” situations throughout 2023 when a podium looked a possibility – only for circumstances to ruin his day.
In the Porsche world, Yardley’s fellow countryman Brenton Hartley won Le Mans in 2017 along with a pair of FIA World Endurance Championship crowns; Earl Bamber was an official Porsche Junior, another Le Mans and FIA WEC title winner and took the Porsche Supercup championship; while Jaxon Evans is another Kiwi former Porsche Junior.
Adding in the likes of Liam Lawson (Formula 1), Shane van Gisbergen (Supercars and NASCAR), and the ageless INDYCAR legend Scott Dixon – everyone from New Zealand appears to be super fast!
Yardley has earned himself another opportunity to showcase that speed in 2024 when he returns to Carrera Cup competition for his second season.
“I’m thrilled to be rejoining Topp Racing with backing from TCS next year for another Carrera Cup campaign,” Yardley said.
“I’m really fortunate to have it all pulled together early and be ready to return for a second year in the championship.
“Having a full season now under my belt, it is massive to have that experience with the cars and a lot of the tracks as well. Before last season, I’d done three of them, but five were completely new, so next season, I will be a lot better prepared.”
While he had some previous experience driving with a roof over his head in one-make competition, last year’s season aboard the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup was an eye-opener for the 25-year-old.
“Coming from single-seaters, it was a massive jump to step into a Carrera Cup car, and I was really learning on the fly as the season progressed,” he said.
“Our pace and results started to improve as the season continued. I was getting comfortable with the car and getting to understand what the car needs compared to open wheel.
“The car had really good pace, but there was always something that was holding us back from putting together a complete weekend. I struggled a lot in qualifying, and once I finally got that figured out towards the end of the year, that was a big help.
“My pace was always really good. I remember at Laguna, I drove from 15th to fifth, and at Miami was from 18th on the grid up to 4th. Qualifying is so important as you are on the back foot if you don’t qualify well.
“After being in the ‘teens’ or just outside the top ten in qualifying, it was nice to qualify in the six at COTA and finally come away with a podium.”
Climbing the podium at Circuit of the Americas in the final round of the season was a huge boost for the Texas-based New Zealander. But like any good racer – he wanted more.
“That second-place finish in the final round really gives me some good momentum coming into next season,” Yardley said.
“I would have loved to have taken a shot at chasing down Riley for the win, but we had so many safety cars. I would have loved it to stay green as I knew I was slightly quicker than him in the first sector, and I knew where I wanted to take a shot at it.
“After the last restart, we only got around to turn six before it went yellow again, but I was still thrilled to get a podium and finish off the season on a strong note.
The 25-year-old Kiwi was born in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. Starting in karts, Yardley progressed into Formula Ford; drove in Australian Formula 4; won the 2017 Toyota 86 one-make championship, and contested the 2018 New Zealand Toyota Racing Series – competing against the likes of future Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman and INDYCAR driver Marcus Armstrong.
Moving to the US in 2018, a lack of opportunities (not helped by the global pandemic) kept him out of a seat almost entirely until last year, where he finished fourth in the Formula Regional Americas Championship.
“It was a long three to four years of basically doing no driving, but I just kept at it. I kept turning up at the races and surrounding myself with good people while I looked for an opportunity,” said Yardley.
“At the end of last year, I went to see Todd Oppermann and the guys at Topp Racing to see if there would potentially be any opportunities moving forward. Thankfully, he gave me a test, and the rest is history.
“I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by so many good people here in the States. I really can’t thank them enough. For Todd at Topp Racing and David Baker at TCS to have me back in the car again for next year is amazing, and I’m so thankful.”
The Texas-based Topp Racing demonstrated some strong speed in 2023. Rafa Racing Club Pro-Am racer Jeff Mosing took a pair of wins at Watkins Glen, while Yardley’s Pro class teammate Travis Wiley headed the times in practice sessions at both WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and COTA.
“We’re one of the smaller teams in the paddock fighting against some of the big guys like Kellymoss and JDX, but the Topp Racing guys are awesome, and I really believe there is no reason why we can’t be as competitive as the big teams,” Yardley said.
“The guys are so great to work with, and we had 2022 champion Parker Thompson help us out in a coaching role at the end of the season. It was really beneficial to be able to lean on his experience.
“The whole place has a great family vibe, and they are based in Fort Worth, not far from me – that is how the whole connection started.
“I am able to pop into the workshop two or three times a week to catch up with the guys as we get ready for what should be a brilliant 2024 season.”