North takes on the South in Christchurch GT challenge
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Christchurch’s Mike Pero Motorsport Park will today be drowned out by the sound of some of New Zealand’s quickest and most distinctive GT and touring-car machinery, for the second annual New Zealand Endurance Championship finale.
The event, held last year at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, combines the quickest entries from the 2016 Eneos North Island Endurance Series and Carter’s Tyres South Island Endurance Series into an all-in battle.
The big, single day of racing comprises a one-hour race and a three-hour race, with each grid filled by qualifiers from the two respective national championships.
A total of 28 cars will compete in both races.
Heading the long entry list is New Zealand’s continually growing GT3-spec contingent.
At least six of them are on the grid, including Trass Family Motorsport’s Ferrari 458, International Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra, reigning champion Tulloch Motorsport and its SaReNi Camaro, and the newly unveiled current-spec Smeg Racing Audi R8 LMS.
Today’s three-hour race represents the Smeg Audi’s endurance racing debut in New Zealand, following the car’s first shakedown at last weekend’s GTRNZ meeting at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
It will be driven by Gene Rollinson and newly crowned two-time BNT NZ Touring Car Championship winner Simon Evans.
Jonny Reid and Neil Foster are behind the wheel of the International Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Ultra. Photo / Matthew Hansen
While GT3 cars are likely to dominate the three-hour, the one-hour race is a much more open prospect.
Traditionally, it’s been the domain of Hugh Gardiner and his Greenlane Wash Depot Porsche 911. However, with that car now sold, the door has opened for his rivals.
One of the leading contenders will be Chris Henderson and his V8-powered Toyota Corolla Levin AE86, who has a tendency to out-muscle the strong contingent of 911s and V8 touring cars.
The balance of the one-hour and three-hour fields represents a picture of variety, with cars ranging from giant-killing Honda Civics, to ex-World Touring Car Championship BMWs, to a raft of big brash V8 Falcons, Mustangs, Commodores, and Corvettes.
John McIntyre leads the group at a rain-soaked Hampton Downs in 2016. Today he will be partnered by Mark Gibson. Photo / Matthew Hansen
“The North Island team hosted a really great event in March 2016, so our challenge is to make the South Island event even better,” said SIERDC secretary Chris Dunn.
“With no series strategy in place, [it’s] just a straight-out duel for the silverware. These teams will leave absolutely nothing on the table as they chase the NZ Championship titles.”
Check out Driven.co.nz for live streaming of qualifying and racing from today’s New Zealand Endurance Championship finale.