Hot winter endurance track action
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The hottest local race circuit attraction of the winter is on track this weekend with the opening races of the Eneos North Island Endurance Series at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on Saturday.
The winter enduros have gained profile in the last two years with the arrival of contemporary specification FIA GT3 cars chasing the outright honours at the head of a varied five-class field.
The series is contested over three rounds and includes one-hour and three-hour race formats.
Heading the outright contenders in the three-hour race is the Audi R8 LMS GT3 car driven by Aucklanders Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson -- winners of the NZ Championship three-hour race at Ruapuna back in March -- and the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 with defending North Island series champion Sam Fillmore being joined by Daniel Gaunt.
The provisional entry list released last week includes a second Audi R8 LMS, prepared by the International Motorsport squad, to be driven by Neil Foster.
The 7.9-litre Chevrolet Camaro GT3 of Glenn Smith and John de Veth also ranks as a leading contender but the similar Tulloch Motorsport example that has been a front-runner the past two seasons isn't appearing in the 2017 series.
Former Supercars Championship racer Andre Heimgartner will return to domestic competition to share the Holden Commodore V8 TLX of Hamilton driver Lance Hughes and there are also SuperTourers in the hands of Callum Quin/John Penny and James Urquhart/Richard Moore.
Auckland racer Nick Chester will campaign his highly developed Holden Commodore VZ Supercar usually seen in GT1 sprint race action, and the Mortimer Motorsport team has entered its duo of BMW M3 GTR racers.
The Christchurch crew of Darryl Barrett and Hamish Frew are also contesting the series in their V8-engined Mazda RX-7.
Among the 30-strong grid for the one-hour race are a cross-section of cars seen in Porsche Series, Castrol BMW, Toyota 86 and Honda Cup summer championships.
There's also a pair of Ferrari 430 GT3s to be driven by Rob Berggren and Jeff Wong, the Holden Commodore SuperTourer of John de Veth, a 2011-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for Morrinsville's Ian Hayr, and Central Muscle Cars crowd pleaser Dean Perkins has entered his 7.1-litre Ford Falcon.
Teams are testing on Friday, and Saturday's quick-fire qualifying sessions run 10-10.20am for the one-hour competitors, and 10.25-11.05am for the three-hour teams. The one-hour race is scheduled to start at 11.15am and the three-hour event runs from 1.30pm.
Round two of the endurance series is at Hampton Downs on June 24 with the series final at Pukekohe Park on July 22.