Kiwi privateers gear up for mammoth Bathurst debut
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While much of the focus during the build-up to tomorrow's Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour has been based around the high profile international teams and drivers, spare a thought for the privateer effort of Kiwi Racing.
The team comprises of a small support crew, a Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo RE-X, and drivers John De Veth, Kevin Bell, Nick Chester, and Glenn Smith.
While all four drivers are experienced names in New Zealand's GT1 and GT2 motorsport scene, all four will be debutantes in tomorrow's big race.
The plan to compete came together relatively late, when the ex-Interlloy Justin McMillan Lamborghini became available to lease.
“It was sort of a medium plan really. The mates were really keen to do it, and then Justin [McMillan] got into his KTMs so he decided that his car was free and he could lease it to us,” said driver Glenn Smith, while speaking to Driven.
“It was about finding a car you could use, and this is a good car, so I thought we better get here and have a go already.”
Smith is no stranger to quick cars, having driven a range of cars across New Zealand's GT sector; including a Daytona Prototype with which he has claimed numerous outright lap records around the country, and a GT3-spec SaReNi Camaro. Though, given the question, he prefers the Gallardo over the Camaro.
“[It's] way better. Much more developed car. It brakes, turns, gets off the line — everything. It does everything right,” he said.
“It would be great to have one of those in New Zealand. You'd definitely be at the front end. Nick [Chester] and I went to Phillip Island and tested it.”
Smith's teammates Chester, De Veth, and Bell have also racked up plenty of experience. De Veth is a former winner of the Eneos North Island Endurance Series title, Chester has been a frequent campaigner in GT1 with an ex-V8 Supercars Holden VZ Commodore, and Bell is an ex-BMW New Zealand factory driver.
But despite their combined history, the four drivers enter tomorrow's 12-hour epic with humble goals.
“All of us go in with the mindset of striving for eight tenths and to enjoy the track,” said Smith.
“We'll all try hard because that's the nature of it, but in reality you look up that pit lane and there's a lot of pretty impressive names.
“It's quite daunting really. There's going to be like 60 cars, a car every 100 meters, there's going to be a lot of safety cars.
“I've done nothing like this before. Kevin Bell, he has, he's done heaps of stuff. But the rest of us haven't done anything like this before, this is huge.
“I guess that was part of the motivation for doing it.”
The team will start the race from 38th place on the 55-car grid. Racing begins at 7.45am NZDT, and it will be telecast live on Sky Sports.