Motorsport: Family business aims high
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Top driver and strong back-up give new team Bathurst hope
New Zealand's newest motor racing team, Trass Family Motorsport (TFM), are heading to Australia early next year to take on some of the best endurance racers in the Bathurst 12 Hour race.
The young team debuted their new Ferrari 458 GT3 at the Highlands Park 101 at the beginning of November in the hands of Jono Lester, Gerald Trass and Graeme Smyth.
Despite being hampered by driver and mechanical issues (crash and wheel lockup), the car showed good pace.
There will be a driver change for the Bathurst event - multiple NZV8 and NZ SuperTourer champion John McIntyre will join Lester and Smyth in the first Class A attempt for outright victory by a New Zealand team.
Having McIntyre on board will be a bonus for the fledgling team, as the long-time V8 racer has raced on the mountain numerous times as a co-driver in the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars showpiece.
"I'm excited at our opportunity because we have a very strong driver line-up," said McIntyre.
"We've got a really good car, and the great thing about this FIA category is that we've got the same opportunity as AF Corsa in the way of our equipment.
"It'll be putting the mix together, it'll be dealing with traffic, because that's the big difference between that and the V8 [Supercars] races - the differences in speed."
TFM will also be bolstered in their attempt to get on the podium by technical help and support from defending Bathurst 12 Hour Champions Maranello Motorsport. McIntyre and Maranello will be crucial for Bathurst rookies Lester and Smyth.
Lead driver Lester joined the team after two successful seasons of GT3 racing in Japan. He held his own at the New Zealand round of the Australian GT championship at Highlands Par.
"Bathurst commands respect but is also an opportunity for us to challenge with even more authority now that the drivers and crew are getting their head around the car and what makes it tick," said Lester. "Our cautious ambition is a top 10 and to win the Pro-Am class."
Although Lester and McIntyre are the better-known drivers, 23-year-old Symth also has some pedigree, being the reigning New Zealand KZ2 shifter kart champion.
He has also been the GT3 development driver with TFM and showed he was comfortable in the car, being on the pace at Highlands Park.
"I've been racing karts full time and cars on-and-off, but never thought anything like this would ever happen," said Smyth.
"Obviously there's going to be a lot of professional drivers from Europe. I don't know what to expect going into it - I'm sort of approaching it like it's another track.
"You can't go into it being scared of the place, or you won't do any good. But I'm not going to go out in the first practice session and try to break a track record."
Lester has confirmed he will be contesting a full Australian GT championship next year. His driving partner has not been announced.
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It's good news for the 25-year-old Aucklander who had a lean 2014 after two great seasons racing the Mercedes AMG GT3 car in the Japanese endurance championship. Hard work, talent and perseverance have combined to seal the deal to race the TFM Ferrari.
"I had my first taste of Australian GT at the Highlands 101 and proved we are a race and championship contender, so to follow on from Bathurst with a full 2015 campaign across the ditch is fantastic.
"The series already expects more than 32 cars and has grown from strength to strength in recent years. It's a viable platform for me to leapfrog back to Asia or Europe down the track if we can get the results with Trass Family Motorsport."