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'Keep chugging for him' - the special cause behind Liam Lawson's Toyota Racing Series defence

As the Toyota Racing Series begins in Cromwell this afternoon, 17-year-old Kiwi Liam Lawson returns to defend his crown won last year.

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Liam Lawson's title defence is about more than just racing. Source: 1 NEWS

Fresh from finishing 11th in his debut Formula 3 season with Dutch outfit MP Motorsport, Lawson is back on home soil and looking to build on a solid if unspectacular first season.

"It's been OK, been up and down really," Lawson told 1 NEWS. "All in all, probably a little bit disappointing for me."

This year's Toyota Racing Series takes on a different meaning for Lawson, though - his overalls printed with a Gut Cancer Foundation logo and his car with the name of a friend and supporter killed by bowel cancer.

"It's been pretty hard to see that happen, but we'll keep chugging on for him."

Liam will auction off his equipment at the end of the season, with all proceeds going to the Gut Cancer Foundation, before returning for another crack at Formula 3.