Another bumper field will take to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park this weekend for round two of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series, where nearly 70 of the best racing machines will battle for One and Three Hour honours.
It’s set to be another hotly contested competition across all classes, with several GT3 racing machines returning to battle it out in the 28-car strong Three Hour feature.
Leading the GT A and outright series are round one winners Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson in the Smeg Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3.
After the wet and windy affair at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo, series co-leader Rollinson is predicting another wet weekend, which he said will mix up the battles throughout the field.
“We had a pretty good run down in Taupo, but at the end of three hours we only won by five seconds,” Rollinson said.
Rollinson has only tested the Audi R8 once at Hampton Downs and that was curtailed by wet weather and teething issues.
“It’ll be a new track for us as well, so we’ve got to get used to the track and the car. We’re pretty confident we can have a good run, but every time we go out there we’re trying to win the thing.
“It’s as much a team game as anything else, especially when it rains. It’ll all come down to strategy and the calls those guys make.”
Hampton Downs is similar to Taupo in many respects with fast and flowing corners with a mix of long straights.
Rollinson said the circuit is definitely one which suits the high downforce cars, but in the rain finding the balance to use the aero and not fall off the track is tough.
“You’ve got to drive the thing hard to make the aero work, but the margin for error is really small.”
He and co-driver Evans will have some stiff competition come Saturday afternoon.
The second placed Trass Family Motorsport outfit with Tasman duo affectionately known by the team as Sam ‘Ace’ Fillmore and Danny ‘Superstar’ Stutterd will line up in their Ferrari 458 GT3.
Dan Gaunt powered through for second at the last round in treacherous conditions, but these two are proven winners in the series and will no doubt be throwing their weight around.
International Motorsport’s Jonny Reid and Neil Foster will be back in action in their first-generation Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3.
While they battle for GT A honours, GT B is set to be just as hotly contested with a gaggle of Holdens, Fords and Porsches.
Off the back of a tough weekend in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, Andre Heimgartner returns to compete with NZ Touring Cars racer Lance Hughes in his Holden Commodore VE. Heimgartner has run with Hughes for several seasons and showed his pace late in the race in Taupo when he launched up to sixth.
James ‘Huggi’ Urquhart and Richard ‘Danger’ Moore have decided to take a break from the series, which no doubt will give Heimgartner and Hughes a look in at the top-five in the points.
Heimgartner and Hughes will be hard pressed by Nick Chester and Cameron Jones who return with their ex-V8 Supercars Holden Commodore. Since they bought the car over a decade ago the former Team Dynamik V8 Supercar has been transformed into a weapon.
While the Three Hour will be the feature piece of the weekend, the 39-car One Hour precursor will likely have some of the fiercest competition.
Of the five International Motorsport cars competing over the weekend, Matt Whittaker is leading the charge in his Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car. Whittaker comes into round two as the defending winner.
Last time he raced on the Hampton Downs circuit it poured down, causing havoc throughout the field. This weekend might bring similar scenes as rain looks odds on to hit the circuit.
If the rain stays away, however, NZ Touring Cars and Central Muscle Car racer John Midgely will be hot on his heels. The car he’s piloting was formerly driven by Shane van Gisbergen briefly, but now the Aucklander is keen to make his mark in the same car.
Joining the V8 rivalry will be the giant killing V8-powered Toyota Corolla of Chris Henderson. Only the rain at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park could stop his charge to the front of the field. In the torquey Toyota, Henderson will be hoping for some dry running.
Round two of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series takes place at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on 24 June. Action begin at 10:00 am on Saturday morning with the first qualifying session, before the One Hour race kicks off at 11:15 pm.