Southland's Ian "Inky" Tulloch will create local motorsport history next month when he imports a new Camaro GT3 race car into New Zealand to contest the Highlands 101 endurance race in Cromwell in November.
Tulloch, the former mayor of Mataura and Gore District and a successful businessman, has won numerous national and Australian motor racing titles in his four-plus decades of motorsport, including seven super truck championships.
Often the successes came in race cars built by his own team, Tulloch Motorsport.
He has a growing interest in endurance racing, having contested Australia's famed Bathurst 12-Hour race and winning a one-hour enduro at Teretonga in March.
Earlier this year he test-drove a 650-horsepower, 7.9-litre V8 Camaro in Italy. "The Camaro GT3 is built with the reliability for endurance racing," he said. "That's why it appealed to me. It's very predictable to drive, with great handling, brakes and power.
"I have a strong personal connection with Camaro, having won my first championship in a Camaro, the NZ GTX saloon car title, in the late 1970s."
Tulloch says he got "itchy feet" watching last year's inaugural Highlands 101 in Central Otago last November. "I know a few of the Australian GT Championship guys like Rod Salmon, with whom I've contested the Bathurst 12-Hour.
"The enduro guys tend to be a good group of racers with lots of racing experience, and there's a really supportive team atmosphere. It's also one form of motorsport I haven't focused on before, so that lends a certain appeal.
"I can see that endurance races will continue to rise in popularity with events like the Highlands 101. These events offer great racing for fans to enjoy, especially with the array of exotic cars we see in races like the 101. And in terms of racing a GT3-spec car, it's fantastic to think you can race it anywhere in the world where GT3 races are run; you've also got a wider market should you ever wish to sell it."
There are only four Camaro GT3 cars in the world, all produced by German GT racing specialist Hans Reiter, founder and director of Reiter Engineering, which has about 100 customers in Europe, America and Asia competing in Reiter-built Lamborghini GT race cars.
In 2013, Reiter established a new division, Sareni Camaro, to transform the world-famous American muscle car into a trendsetting GT racer. The Sareni Camaro is competing in ADAC GT Masters series and the Blancpain sprint series in Britain with some success.
The fact the Camaro GT3 uses a proven race gearbox with its Holinger speed-shift system and a rear-end similar to a V8 Supercar appealed to Tulloch.
The Camaro is being imported for Tulloch by Justin McMillan, head of M-Motorsport, who is the agent for Reiter Engineering in Australia.
McMillian will provide engineering support to Tulloch and coordinate a stock of spares for the Camaro. He also runs a Reiter Engineering-prepared Lamborghini Gallardo in the Australian GT Championship.
Tulloch's Camaro GT3 will be only the second of its kind to be raced by a team other than Reiter's. It will line up on the Highlands 101 starting grid among the Audis, Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens and Aston Martins more commonly seen in the GT sports car categories.
"If everything goes to schedule, the Camaro will be in New Zealand in early September," Tulloch says. "It's already had some track time before it was packed into the container in Germany, but I may not get much time in it myself before the first event we hope to contest in September."
Tulloch's goal is to get to grips with the Camaro before he prepares to qualify for the Highlands 101 on November 8-9. He may also contest next year's Australian GT Championship. The Highlands 101 race features a modern take on the Le Mans running start and compulsory pit stops for two drivers.
- The Southland Times