Counting down New Zealand's best obscure circuit-racing championships
Just about every commentator in the country has penned at least one article about New Zealand being in a ‘golden age’ of motorsport right now. But while the exploits of messrs Paddon, Dixon, Hartley and co are covered to a decent degree, coverage of our domestic classes can be a little thin.
Driven does its level best, covering the BNT NZ Touring Cars, New Zealand Rally Championship, and D1NZ National Drifting Championship to name a few. But the pot still goes deeper. Deeper than what you see in print, deeper than what you hear about on the radio.
So here’s five of the best circuit-racing series in New Zealand that don’t get so much time in this world they call ‘the mainstream media’. If you’re someone who swears by ‘supporting the grassroots’, I’d urge you to give these a look in.
Photo / Simon Chapman
Yes, all the cars are Hondas, and yes they’re all front-wheel drive, and — of course — most are Civics. But, these cars are more than capable of thrashing out some incredibly competitive lap times.
Where some club classes have an earnest aura that almost scoffs at the idea of taking themselves even remotely seriously, those in Honda Cup annually wheel out some of the quickest, best prepared race cars in New Zealand.
And despite a wide variety of body styles and chassis-codes at play, the racing is frequently close and exciting.
North Island / South Island Endurance Series
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard or read some short-sighted pleb complain about the lack of a run-what-you’ve-brung racing series in New Zealand, I could probably afford a comfortable Auckland home.
It’s a complaint that’s grown in popularity since Australasian touring-car racing took a turn towards running more generic platforms across its championships in the mid to late–’00s.
These classes do exist, and New Zealand is lucky enough to have three rather good ones. There’s GTRNZ, which is home to the incredible rocket ships of GT1. Then there’s our pair of Endurance Series' — one based in the North Island, and one based in the South Island.
Both categories have fielded strong grids of superb race cars — from tickled former V8 Supercars and GT3-spec apex annihilators, to home-built sleepers.
Last year’s grids were good, but apparently this year’s are going to be even better — the North Island series on the edge of confirming near capacity grids.
Historic Muscle Cars
The Central Muscle Car series are something of a darling of New Zealand’s motorsport landscape, but my preference is the historic class.
All modifications are period-based, which might sound like a bit of purist waffling but does serve the measurable purpose of keeping costs somewhat contained compared to other classes.
And on top of that, the cars sound just as mean and angry as any other category in the country.
SsangYong Race Series
We laughed. We checked to see it was April the first. Then we laughed even harder when we realized it wasn’t.
The SsangYong Race Series wasn’t exactly a popular idea when it was first revealed to Kiwi race fans a few years ago. Next thing, they produced a 25-ute grid, and that number has only gone up ever since.
The racing is competitive, and eerily similar as a product to the spectacle regularly cranked out by the likes of Formula First — winners often decided on the final lap through drafting tactics and genuine race craft.
This is the second Thursday Five appearance for the boys and girls at 2KCup, and for good reason — they’re onto something very good.
Any pleb can go to their local Rebel Sport and pick up a rugby ball or a cricket bat and instantly indulge themselves in their favourite sport. And while the 2KCup isn’t exactly the same scenario, it’s as close as the sport has ever been to that point in New Zealand (minus things like banger racing on dirt).
You buy a registered base car for two grand or less that fits their criteria, get a race license, and you’re basically in. Just like the SsangYongs above, the racing is tight and competitive. And while the budgets are small, the race craft at the tip of the field is genuine.
While the series is currently just a solid slice of cheap thrills, there is huge potential for it to be a breeding ground for the future of New Zealand’s club racing scene.