Interest in midwinter endurance racing is hotting up
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Interest in midwinter endurance racing is hotting up with strong grids expected for double-header One-Hour and Three-Hour enduros at Taupo Motorsport Park on Saturday.
The races are the first round of the Mahindra North Island Endurance Series, which will visit Hampton Downs in late June and Pukekohe in July.
Several FIA GT3 specification cars headline the entry list.
A leading combination for the Three-Hour event will be Southland’s Inky Tulloch and three-time NZV8 champion John McIntyre (Nelson) running the Chevrolet Camaro GT3, which Tulloch imported last year. The Camaro contested the Highlands 101 Australian GT race in the South Island last year — Tulloch sharing with V8 Supercar star Craig Lowndes — and now makes its first appearance at a North Island circuit.
For McIntyre it’s the second taste of a GT3 car after driving the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 at the Bathurst 12 Hours in February.
He tested the 7.9-litre Camaro at a wet Teretonga Park last weekend and says it’s very different to the Ferrari.
“You couldn’t get two cars that were any more different. The Camaro is a brutal sledgehammer of a car,” said McIntyre.
“It’s very hard to give the car a full appraisal because we ran in the rain all day and didn’t get to put slick tyres on the car. But that is still very important because we’ll get to race in the wet at some point during the series.”
McIntyre was impressed with the Camaro.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that it’s very fast in a straight line. That’s how it makes its lap time.
“The closest thing I can relate it to is the Trans-Am cars of the early 2000s, but it has a six-speed paddle shift gearbox.”
Championship success in local V8 racing made McIntyre a sought-after co-driver for V8 Supercar teams. He sees the opportunity to race GT3 cars as the next phase of his racing career.
“To be an endurance co-driver in V8 Supercars now, you really need to be in Australia fulltime and driving in the Development Series.
“With GT3, there are new opportunities and the possibility to do races all around the world like Spa and Nurburgring, which just wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago.”
Among the rivals to the Tulloch Motorsport Camaro will be the Trass Family Motorsport operation.
While its latest specification Ferrari 458 Italia returned to the track last weekend at the Phillip Island Australian GT event, the team has two earlier generation 430 GT3 cars and a 430 Challenge racer set for both One-Hour and Three-Hour campaigns. Jono Lester and Paul Kelly are included in the driving roster.
Porsche 911 Cup cars, a Nissan GTR and a Mosler MT900 — with Simon Evans on the driving roster — are joined by a variety of V8 machinery including SuperTourer and NZV8s among entry lists, which exceed 40 cars in both races and include a host of small-capacity production cars chasing class honours.