THE NORTH ISLAND ENDURANCE SERIES JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT MORE INTERESTING, SAYS SIMON CHAPMAN
Auckland-based International Motorsport is introducing two GT3 spec Audi R8s to its line-up for the North Island Endurance Series, with the highly anticipated additions joining the grid at Hampton Downs this weekend.
The team traditionally ran Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, but this weekend will feature the two Audi R8s and a Nissan GT-R as well as two Porsche 911s.
International Motorsport managing director Lyall Williamson told Driven he was excited about the new additions.
“We’re really quite privileged to have two of the latest cars here to run. It’s a step up on the cars we’ve had before,” said Williamson.
“This is a new generation car and we think long-distance racing is going to be the thing of the future.”
General manager (and Lyall’s son) Nick Williamson agreed about the new additions. “We’ve traditionally been big Porsche people, but when we looked at it as a whole, and where the cars are at, the Audi just does everything really well,” he said.
“The Audis are probably one of the more suited cars for New Zealand tracks, which are traditionally a bit tighter, twistier and bumpier.”
Lyall Williamson added: “The Audis are quite different from the Porsches we’ve run in the past. We won’t put any pressure on the drivers.
“It’s just a case of going gently until we get familiar.”
Founded by Lyall Williamson alongside Formula One champion Denny Hulme in the early 1960s, International Motorsport has become one of the longest running and most successful professional racing outfits in New Zealand motor racing.
“Lyall used to work on his car and one day thought of driving,” said Nick Williamson.
“Denny said, ‘You either want to be a mechanic or be a driver, which one do you want to be?’
“And, of course, mechanic was the path he took.
“Fifty years later and this is where we are
“We’re a bit of an oddity in this country in the sense that we’re a professional race team.
“We do anything from building race cars, setting up and maintaining them, to arrive-and-drive packages.”
In just its second year, the Mahindra North Island Endurance Series has attracted a strong line-up of drivers and cars.
The likes of John McIntyre, Inky Tulloch, Jono Lester, Dean Perkins, Simon Evans and Andre Heimgartner will compete in some of the best GT machinery such as the SaReNi Camaro, Ferrari F430, Mosler MT900R, Porsche 997 and Nissan GT-R.
With the introduction of the newer GT3 cars, Nick Williamson believes the North Island endurance racing scene will continue to grow.
“It’s getting stronger and stronger. It’s only early days, being just the second year, but you just need to look at the entries list for this weekend. It gives you an idea that that’s where a lot of people are heading in motorsport.
“It’s the natural progression. It’s the smartest way to buy a race car to do the job that you want to do. You can get a lot of bang for your buck and a lot of time in the car.
“It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere with great people. I’d love to see more people turn out and see the series — there’s going to be an amazing amount of very nice and fast race cars.”
With the pair of Audis eligible for global GT3 spec series, International Motorsport isn’t ruling out competing in the Australian GT championship.