Fire-breathing Aston Martin GT3 on its way to NZ for endurance series
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One of the most current cars in global GT3 racing is set to take on New Zealand's endurance racing calendar later this year.
The Aston Martin Vantage GT3 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 is part of the stable of international race team The Heart of Racing (THoR), having been raced in America's IMSA series. It will be driven by Alex Riberas and circuit racing debutante Darren Kelly.
The story of the Aston Martin's arrival to New Zealand is one of chance meetings and friendships. Spanish racer Riberas became stranded in New Zealand while on a 10-day holiday. While stuck here, the factory Aston Martin driver became friends with former Valvoline D1NZ National Drifting Champion Kelly.
The pairing and their Aston Martin will take on both the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series and Carters Tyre Service South Island Endurance Series, with International Motorsport charged with running the GT3 machine.
Having been given a taste of the drifting world by Kelly, Riberas is now tasked with giving Kelly a window into the circuit-racing world.
“I’ve had a lot of fun learning drifting from Darren,” said Riberas. “Now I get to show him the ropes of racing a GT3 car on a road course in these very competitive series. We got a lot of help from Aston Martin Racing to prepare a new race car and get it here in time for the beginning of the series.”
The Heart of Racing is a group designed to raise awareness and funds for various hospital organisations. Seattle Children's Hospital in the US was the group's first partnership, and for these local events it's partnering with the Starship Foundation.
“Darren was one of the first friends we made in New Zealand when our group of travelers became locked down in New Zealand after the outbreak,” said We Love Aotearoa event organiser Teagan Klein. “Going racing with him is very much an expression of the spirit we have been inspired by to create the August 15th event. Darren and Alex as well as both the drifting and GT3 race cars will be on hand for visitors to meet.”
“This is a great opportunity to compete in GT racing, alongside Alex,” said Kelly, fresh from a third-place finish at the weekend's D1NZ finale at Pukekohe. “As someone who spent a lot of time in paediatric hospitals growing up, the purpose of The Heart of Racing really resonates with me.”
“We are delighted to have the support of The Heart of Racing,” said Melanie Esplin of the Starship Foundation. “And, we are thrilled that going into the season, THoR has already raised $250,000 towards our National Children’s Intensive Care Unit to support the continued delivery of world-class care for critically sick and injured children from across the country.”
“Given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to go racing with Darren and give back to Starship is a great way for us to continue that effort while we are sheltering here in New Zealand,” added team principal Gabe Newell.
The GT3-spec Vantage is one of a selection of GT3 vehicles in New Zealand. GT3-spec Audi R8s, SaReNi Chevrolet Camaros, Reiter Lamborghini Gallardos, and Mercedes-Benz AMG SLSs can all be found here. There's also a McLaren 650S GT3 and a Nissan R35 GT-R GT3 in the country.
The first endurance event is the opening round of the South Island series on September 12 at Teretonga Park in Invercargill. The opening round of the North Island series then follows the following weekend at Hampton Downs.
Round two and three of the South Island Series follows on October 3 at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park and October 17 in Timaru. Then it's back north to Pukekohe on October 23–24. The two categories then have a combined grand finale at Highlands Motorsport Park on November 6–7.