Endurance cars for Teretonga for opener
Round one of the Endurance Three Hour Series blasts into life this weekend with its annual trip to the country's southernmost circuit at Teretonga Park.
The 2013 ASKO series has been expanded and will this year be run over four rounds, adding an extra dimension to this year's series, where finishing races and scoring championship points will be the key to success.
With the fastest endurance cars in New Zealand heading south for the series opener, it will be a sight to behold as household names such as Daniel Gaunt, John McIntyre, Jonny Reid and V8 Supercar regular Alex Davison line up, with more stars set to join the series at future rounds.
The series will include every Three Hour Series champion since 2006, except one, and while in past years there have been some obvious favourites, for 2013 there are at least a dozen teams that are serious contenders, with many others highly likely to surprise.
The battle for Three Hour honours is likely to come from the exotic GT class, which is dominated by the Porsche marque, with 12 of the German machines set to take on the magnificent Ferrari 458 of Craig Innes/Sam McNeill and thundering ex-V8 Supercar of Matt and Dwayne Cater. Former two-time series champion Paul Kelly (Porsche 997 GT3) leads the Porsche charge and again teams up with Gaunt, as he sets his sights on an unprecedented third straight title.
However, they will have stiff competition from the two International Motorsport 997 GT3 entries of Alex Davison/Andrew Bagnall and Jonny Reid/Rick Armstrong.
There have been new cars during the off-season for Simon Ellingham/John McIntyre (997 GT3), Allan Dippie/Scott O'Donnell (997 GT3 Cup S) and past champions Angus McFarlane/Michael Bushell (997 GT3 Cup R), with George McFarlane/Grant Silvester, Lindsay O'Donnell/Bruce Stewart and 12hr champions Phil Hood/John DeVeth and Todd Murphy/Allan Rickerby all in 997 GT3s.
With all the factory-built race cars in the GT class, class 1 (3501cc +) is dominated by the traditional Kiwi hybrids, and picking a winner here is equally as impossible.
Last year's champions Craig and Scott McDermid won't make the Teretonga round with their new car, but 2011 class 1 champions Graham Rhodes/Paul Rickerby are one of many teams who have undergone serious off-season development with their awesome Batman RX7 V8. Series regulars John Wadsworth/Warren Croft return with their 730hp VY Commodore, and Teretonga will also be the debut track of the Corvette C6R of Bruce Davidson/Dave Garden.
Flying the Ford flag is the Boss Mustang of Rick and Deon Cooper and Aussie-based competitor Perry Scarfe, who, alongside Shane Hodgson, will debut a new 7-litre-powered BA Falcon, a similar car to North Island team Dave Dovey/Andrew Bowler/Shane Wenzlick.
The European influence in class 1 comes from the twin-turbo BMW 135 of Carl and Steve Kirk-Bunnand and the BMW M3 GT4 of Warwick and Andre Mortimer.
A few of the class 2 (2001cc -3500cc) cars could easily surprise, including the ex-WTCC BMW 320i of Arron and Stu Black plus Allan and David McCormick (BMW GTR) and the immaculate new M3 Turbo for Shane Helms/Rob Bolland.
This class has a great mix of man and machinery, including Toyota AE86 turbos for Pat and Ryan Heagney and Craig and Scott McDermid, Warren Good/Bryan Rusbatch (Mini Challenge), plus rally champion Chris West/Andrew Simms (Evo 9), who will both no doubt be looking for some Teretonga rain.
However, the real unknown in both class 2 and the race could come from the pair of Seat Leon Supercopas for Kevin Gallichan/Sam Fillmore and Mike Driver/tba.
The final class is the combined class 3 and 4 (0-2000cc), which sees the return of 2011 class winners Steve Parker/Matt Jackson (Honda s2000), who will take on the Ex-Kiwi Team Nurburgring Civic R of Paul Coghill/David Hunter as well as the factory-built Renault Megane of Craig Russell/Bruin Beasley, the Corona of Grant Constable/Bill Currie and the ever-reliable Peugeot 106 of Ken Sinclair/Dennis Ham, who will keep everyone in the class honest, through reliability if not speed.
After this weekend's round at Teretonga, the ASKO Endurance Series moves to Powerbuilt Ruapuna, Christchurch, on October 5 and then Levels Raceway, Timaru, on October 19 before the series grand finale and the new Highlands Motorsport Park circuit in Cromwell on November 9, where the overall Three Hour Series champion will be awarded the South Canterbury Toyota Cup.
Qualifying and the race are on Saturday, with the three-hour race expected to start about 1.30pm.
With 37 cars scheduled to line up at Teretonga, there are still a couple of entry spots available for the Three Hour Series.
The Southland Times