Star vs underdogs
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The next three weekends represent a huge highlight for New Zealand’s motorsport calendar.
Each weekend features a marquee circuit-racing meeting, with the first starting today; the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500.
The 500km sprint is the third round of the CAMS Australian GT Endurance Championship, where GT machinery from McLaren, Lamborghini, Audi, Mercedes-AMG, BMW, Porsche, and more will compete for top honours in tomorrow afternoon’s enduro.
The entry list is dotted with high-profile entries. A McLaren to make note of is the No. 58 650S driven by AGT regular Fraser Ross. Run by New Zealander Andy McElrea and McElrea Racing, Fraser’s car will sport a throwback livery honouring Bruce McLaren’s ‘Kiwi’ insignia that used to fly on race cars all over the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Ross will be partnered by factory McLaren driver Alvaro Parente, former winner of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with Shane van Gisbergen.
“To have Alvaro is a big boost, not just for the team but for myself to be partnered with him. We met at the Bathurst 12 Hour, and we’ve spoken all year,” said Ross.
“We feel we’ve now made a step in the right direction with the car, but with the experience and knowledge that Alvaro has, it’s only going to boost that for Hampton Downs and Highlands.”
As well as Van Gisbergen and Whiddett, other Kiwis racing in the eventare Andrew Waite, Dominic Storey, and International Motorsport’s three-car, six-driver line-up further bolstering the amount of New Zealand flavour.
But, heading them all is arguably one of the surprise combinations — Jaxon Evans and Tim Miles.
The Kiwi pairing perhaps aren’t household names here, but they and their Melbourne Performance Center Audi R8 LMS are so far undefeated — having won the opening round of the endurance series at Phillip Island before backing up the feat with a win at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Evans, in particular, is regularly mistaken for being Australian, having come through that country’s motorsport ranks to become a leading GT pilot across AGT in the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup series.
“I still call New Zealand home and cheer for the All Blacks!” Evans told Driven. “Although I’ve grown up in Australia, this will feel like a home round for me. Especially having some family and friends there to support.”
While he and co-driver Miles are both race-fit, it will be Evans’ first time racing on the new extended Hampton Downs Motorsport Park layout.
Nonetheless the duo approaches this weekend as one of the early favourites.
“[Miles and I] work well together and have been teammates for three years in GT3 Cup Challenge and Carrera Cup. We also have a personal relationship off the track, which is cool. EP, our engineer, and the boys at MPC do a fantastic job to give us the best shot at challenging for race wins — and ultimately the championship.
“The Dominic Storey/Peter Hackett car will be fast, as well as the McElrea Racing McLaren. The Roger Lago/David Russell combination proved they were the ones to beat last year. It goes without saying, it’s going to be all on!”