Organisers of the New Zealand Endurance Championship have finalised dates and a location for next year’s national championship final.
South Auckland’s Pukekohe Park will host the decider on March 23-24 in 2018 with the top cars from the North and South Island Endurance Series eligible for the final.
It will be the first time the circuit has hosted the New Zealand Endurance Championship; having previously been held at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in the North Waikato and Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
North Island Endurance Racing Drivers Club President Kel McBeath said the move to Pukekohe Park for the final has been well received among competitors.
When the championship makes its debut at the circuit the facility will have been fully resurfaced in time for the race.
“A lot of drivers have already indicated they’re keen to enter having seen some of the surface upgrades that are already underway,” McBeath said.
“We’re expect another closely fought battle for the inter Series Challenge Cup. In 2016 the North Island won, but the South Island took it out this year, so the North Island competitors will no doubt be be keen to put on a strong showing on home soil.”
Leading the charge for the Three Hour field are the heavy hitters of New Zealand endurance racing. Five FIA Homologated GT3 cars are eligible to compete in next year’s Three Hour race, while the sizeable Porsche contingent will make up much of the One Hour grid.
The Carter’s Tyres Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 heads the South Island contingent, while the Smeg Racing Audi R8 GT3 of Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson was the top qualifier for the North Island.
Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd have the option to bring either the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 or the BMW M6 GT3 they drove at the final round of the North Island Endurance Series.
International Motorsport’s Neil Foster and Jonny Reid will also be able to bring their Audi R8 LMS GT3 too. Rounding up the GT3 contingent are former North Island Endurance Series champions John de Veth and Glenn Smith in their Reiter Engineering SaReNi Camaro GT3.
The One Hour final is set to feature a healthy dose of Porsche participants. Over a quarter of the field is expected to be made up of the German marque with One Hour North Island Endurance Series champion Matt Whittaker leading with his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Another Matt will be making his presence felt too, with Matt Griffin expected to return to the One Hour field to battle for Class One honours. The Mortimer Motorsport driver contested the entire One Hour season on one set of tyres while driving a V8-powered BMW M3 E46 GTR.
The Mortimer Motorsport group will be out in force with Warwick and Andre Mortimer likely to take part again.
However, the giant killing Chevrolet-powered Toyota AE86 of Chris Henderson will be giving the Porsches a run for their money. Having defeated them all in the South Island Endurance Series One Hour races, the Pukekohe Park circuit is likely to suit his home built weapon.
A big contingent of Porsches are expected to come from the South Island too, but there’ll also be a host of Japanese racing machinery on show.
New Zealand Championship titles are on offer across all the competition classes, with titles for GT3 and top-level touring cars, as well as capacity based classes from 1600cc through to over 3500cc.
SIERDC Series spokesman Chris Dunn said the South Island teams are also excited about the 2017–’18 Championship event and are equally keen to retain the Interisland challenge cup.
“We want to retain it after winning it last year, but also we want to be the first to win it on the opposite islands turf,” Dunn said.
“This Endurance Championship event is very unique being a one off race for the silverware. Endurance racing is always full of twist and turns and when there is no series strategy at play fans get treated to one hell of a race.”
Entries are open for any competitors from the North or South Island Endurance Series in 2017, but priority will be given to the top 20 qualifying cars from the respective series’.
Entries open on the 15th of December and can be made via www.motorsportentry.com. Organisers are hoping to have the filed confirmed by Christmas.