The final round of the inaugural Mahindra North Island Endurance Series at Hampton Downs this Saturday looks set to be a thriller with a 30 car entry in the combined Mahindra Three and Six hour race and a field of more than 20 cars in the one hour race.
With late entries still to come in – five Porsche GT3 cars will take on teams fielding competitive cars from Ferrari, Corvette, SEAT, Nissan, Holden and Ford, with Taupo overall winners Dean McCarroll and David Glasson also sure to be right in the mix in their very nimble Juno sports car.
All-Australian team Malcolm Niall and Mark Pilatti make their circuit and series debut in a 997 GT3, but the ones to watch around the challenging North Waikato track are likely to be Mike Driver and Simon McLennan. McLennan missed the Taupo round, but was one of the stars at the first round at Pukekohe. Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd are out again in their 997 GT3, with Craig Innes and Mark Maddren in a 996 GT3. V8 SuperTourer owner and driver John McIntyre is again paired up with Simon Gilbertson in their Porsche 997 GT3 and after McIntyre’s blistering stint at Taupo that saw them take second overall, the JMR-run outfit will be keen to go one better.
The prototype V8 SuperTourer Holden – which has shown real speed and reliability in the hands of owner John de Veth – is out again with GT1 ace Glenn Smith alongside John. Robin Gray will be joined by Jono Lester in the Trass Motorsport Ferrari F430 Challenge for the full six hour race and after a great result in Taupo, the addition of Lester will push the car even further to the sharp end.
International Motorsport make their first appearance in the series with the Nissan GTR piloted by Stephen Farmer and Tim Martin – the latter a circuit expert. Seriously fast and seriously complex, this will be a head turner both on and off the track.
A packed field includes several ex-NZV8 cars, as well as a flock of Seat Supercopa machines. There are plenty of interesting entries towards the slower end of the pack too, with a Mazda RX7 Series 6 entered for Bruce and Arie Brooks and Dave Goodwin likely to please the rotary fans and Hondas from Hayden Johnston/Damon Jackson (S2000), Yortt/Grigor (FD2 Civic), Calcott/Young (Spoon Integra), McCullogh/Drum (Spoon Integra) Meadows/Pollard (Motul Integra), Gee/Morris (EG Civic) and Smith/Smith (DC2 Integra) sure to keep the VTEC fans happy.
Top entry in the Mahindra One Hour race is the Ferrari 458 Challenge machine of Tim O’Connor, more used tor running in the popular South Island Endurance series. Tim put plenty of miles around the circuit under his belt at the Ferrari Festival earlier in the year and will be looking to put that knowledge to good effect in his fabulous machine. He’ll likely be up against Kel McBeth’s Panoz, Simon Gilbertson’s Porsche, Ian Hayer’s Porsche and the Fillmore/Stutterd combo for overall honours. In less exotic machinery will be Bronson Porter, but he has thrilled the fans at both rounds with his spectacular driving in his old Holden and will no doubt be in full attack mode once again – despite a big crash at Pukekohe last weekend.
Evening testing takes place on Friday with qualifying and both races set for Saturday. The Mahindra Three and Six Hour races get underway at 1pm. Fans will also be able to view the trackside camera feeds from Hampton Downs by logging on to live.hamptondowns.com on race day.