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Five very different Kiwi race cars with five different stories
By Matthew Hansen • 19/05/2017
The best thing about endurance racing is the juxtaposition of cars you can sometimes witness back to back.
And it's no different for New Zealand's own series; the ENEOS (they make us type that in capital letters, I'm not shouting at you) North Island Endurance Series.
The three-round series starts tomorrow at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, and the grid is as full of variety as usual.
I arrived at the track earlier today to take a few happy snaps and catch up with a few people ahead of tomorrow. And here's five machines that caught my eye.
There are a few things that set apart this 997-gen Porsche 911 GT3. Thing one is that it howls louder than any other 911 here, thing two is the foreign racing livery, and thing three are the American flags and names spread along its roof line.
With New Zealand's Carrera Cup series winding down many, many years ago now, a lot of the Porsche 911 racers that arrive at our race tracks are imports from Europe, Asia, or over the ditch.
And this is one of the more interesting ones here. It's from the US; an ex-ALMS machine driven and campaigned by Patrick Dempsey.
For some of us, that name triggers a 'who?' response. But for others, namely those who are avid viewers of the soap Grey's Anatomy. Sort of like America's answer to Shortland Street except superior in every measurable way.
The silver bullet is now driven by Tim James, who also runs it in the Pirelli Porsche series and several other events.
The political black hole known as the NZV8s/V8 SuperTourers/MotorSport NZ battle is one that many from all sides have written or spoken about.
And for a long time the car embroiled in the middle of the scrap was this very Holden VE Commodore. It's the prototype Holden that the V8 SuperTourers group built as a test bed for their new technology.
Ironically it never raced in the series proper, instead going on to enjoy a fruitful stint in endurance racing. Current pilot John De Veth won this very title (the three-hour version) two years ago in the Commodore with teammate Glenn Smith. The Commodore now runs in the one-hour races.
The bowtie that isn't
Smith and De Veth have moved into something a bit bigger for the three-hour — this SaReNi Camaro GT3.
It's one of two in the country; the other one driven by John McIntyre and Inky Tulloch. Although the pairing are absent from this year's North Island Endurance Series with Tulloch still recovering from injury.
Despite its familiar, angry, shape, this isn't really a Chevrolet. The American marque had no real part of the production of the GT3-spec Camaros. Instead, they're engineered by a German group called Reiter. Reiter make a host of different racers, including GT3-spec Lamborghinis, in a similar arrangement.
While the Camaro GT3 isn't exactly known for its international success, Tulloch's car has a few national titles to its name.
The Smith/De Veth Camaro is one of several GT3-based cars competing this weekend across both the one and three-hour races. One of the others is the late entry of Clark Proctor and Andrew Porter — a Nissan Nismo R35 GT-R GT3.
It's ex-Japan, having been acquired by Proctor late last year in time to run in the Hampton Downs and Highlands 101 endurance events.
That said, the team are taking things step by step with this car. Their pace will be close to the leaders (who are likely to be Smeg Racing and their new Audi R8, International Motorsport and their R8, and Trass Family Motorsport and their Ferrari 458), but probably not close enough to challenge for the win.
But, it's not all about big GTs
GTs and V8s only form part of the equation, with a range of different class titles for less powerful cars also on the line.
Among them is this diminutive Honda EG Civic. It's driven by university student Oliver Heycoop in the one-hour series. It used to run in the Motul Hondacup Series, but made the switch to endurance racing last year.
The Civic is quite typical in this series, with almost every generation of 90s and 00s Civic on the grid. They're a popular platform due to the amount of aftermarket support they come with, and the speeds their humble little engines are capable of.
While it looks quite straight at the moment, things were a bit different a few races ago at a previous Taupo event after its left-rear wheel decided to part company with the rest of the car while travelling at high speed. Luckily the car didn't dig into the grass and roll over, otherwise it might not have been able to fight another day.