20 cars confirmed for opening NZ Touring Cars bash
The BNT NZ Touring Car Championship has announced a provisional 20-car field for this weekend's ITM Auckland SuperSprint.
The event doubles as the opening round of the category's six-round season — which is set to travel the country over the following five months, ending at Hampton Downs in March.
The current grid comprises eight entries in the Class One championship, 10 entries in the Class Two championship, and the invitational Class Three entries of Nigel Karl's Tamaki ITM Falcon and Matt Tubbs' wild JumpFlex Falcon.
Reigning champion Simon Evans leads the Class One field in his ex-NZ SuperTourer Smeg Racing Holden Commodore.
Among his chief rivals are fellow former champions Nick Ross and Jason Bargwanna; though a trio of young guns in the form of Tom Alexander, Brock Cooley, and Sam Barry could also threaten the Aucklanders' dominance.
Though Alexander is returning for a second season of top-tier V8s, both Cooley and Barry will be making their full-time Class One debut. "It's good to see the likes of Cooley and Barry step up to Class One, which proves that Class Two is a good feeder category," said Evans. "I expect them to be quick this season."
New measures to ensure parity among the Class One chassis have been implemented including equal engine mapping and mandatory electronic throttle bodies. "I think it will create more exciting and even closer racing and will provide more drivers vying for wins," said Evans.
With Cooley having graduated to Class One, Class Two's title is up for grabs -- last season's runner up Brad Lathrope is most likely to duel former Toyota Racing Series race winner Jamie Conroy for wins.
"First and foremost to win a championship you need consistency," said Lathrope. "Last season I unfortunately had two DNFs, so the biggest challenge this season from myself and teams perspective is to work on finishing every race and consistently being up the front."
Provisional entry list
4 / Simon Evans / Holden 007 / Nick Ross / Nissan 11 / Tom Alexander / Holden 19 / John Midgley / Ford 71 / Sam Barry / Toyota 84 / Lance Hughes / Holden 97 / Jason Bargwanna / Ford 111 / Brock Cooley / Ford
16 / Jamie Conroy / Ford 23 / Brendan Murphy / Holden 33 / Steve Taylor / Ford 40 / Bronson Porter / Holden 46 / Simon Fleming / Ford 62 / Chelsea Herbert / Ford 63 / Nick Farrier / Ford 69 / Liam MacDonald / Ford 73 / Brad Lathrope / Ford 77 / Robert Wallace / Ford