Warfare at Hampton Downs: we preview this weekend's enduro
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Driven are giving away 10 double passes to this Saturday's round of the North Island Endurance Series. Scroll down for more info!
Round two of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series is this weekend at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. It's probably going to rain, but that's not going to stop the 29 entrants in the three-hour race, and the whopping 40-car grid in the one-hour race from turning out and racing like their lives depended on it.
Both grids once again bring a whole host of different kinds of machine, with multiple class championships to be decided between each of the two races. Want to know more? Read on.
So, who's gonna win?
In the three hour? Probably the Smeg Racing Audi R8. Drivers Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson have the pace, as does the new rig underneath them. They've proven unbeatable thus far in 2017, but in the temperamental world of GT3 racers you can never count your chickens too early.
“We had a pretty good run down in Taupo, but at the end of three hours we only won by five seconds,” says Rollinson.
“It’ll be a new track for us as well, so we’ve got to get used to the track and the car. We’re pretty confident we can have a good run, but every time we go out there we’re trying to win the thing.
“It’s as much a team game as anything else, especially when it rains. It’ll all come down to strategy and the calls those guys make.”
OK, so who can beat them?
Trass Family Motorsport are the best bet. They've, technically speaking, been the fastest car at the last two events they've entered against the Smeg racer thanks to the heroics of lightning quick Supercars pilots Richard Muscat and Daniel Gaunt.
But for this round, they've reverted back to the tried and true reigning champ combo of placing Danny Stutterd with regular driver Sam Fillmore. They'll still be quick, with both drivers continuing to get faster and faster with each showing (and both being fresh from round one of the Australian GT Endurance Championship).
The other GT3 to watch out for will be International Motorsport's Audi R8, driven by former A1GP gun Jonny Reid and Neil Foster. They finished third at round one, and if you remember right won the title last year.
Outside of that trio, Clark Proctor and Andrew Porter's Nissan Nismo R35 GT-R will be worth keeping an eye on. It's a relatively new car to the country, but both drivers will be accustomed to racing it around Hampton Downs, having raced it at last year's 101 endurance event there late in the year.
My smokey in the three hour is Nick Chester and Cameron Jones in their highly modified ex-Supercars Holden Commodore. They claimed a sneaky fourth place at round one, and their speed will only get closer to the GT3 cars at Hampton — a track better suited to the Holden.
And, in the one hour?
The one hour presents an even more interesting gumbo of cars at the pointy end.
With no GT3 machines present, victory is wide open to the swarms of Carrera Cup Porsches, V8s, and various other machines in the category's eclectic mix of cars.
Matt Whittaker, also racing with International Motorsport, is the top pick. That current-gen Porsche 991 911 is a rocketship, and has proven rock solid reliability over the last season or two. Ian Hayr and Tim James in their slightly older 911s will be somewhere at the front too, as will the BNT NZ Touring Cars Ford Falcon SuperTourer of John Midgley.
But the two cars to watch are probably going to be those of Chris Henderson and Dean Perkins. Henderson's V8-powered Toyota Corolla Levin is a cult hero in the South Island, and made waves in the series opener with a second-place finish.
Perkins meanwhile brings along his rugged Central Muscle Cars Ford Falcon XD. A few trips into the sand trap at round one couldn't prevent him from a top five, and (like the Chesters Commodore) he too will prefer the Hampton Downs layout.
If it rains, what do I do?
Enjoy your hot chocolate on the couch you wimp. The rest of us will attempt to slug it out in the wet.
Thankfully, the event will be streamed live and free online. So if the weather does roll in and you decide to chicken out, tune in to Driven.co.nz, where there will be a live stream sitting there waiting for you.
Want tickets? [update]
This competition has sadly closed. Congratulations to our 10 winners! Hope you enjoy the racing!