We may well look back on the 7 November 2020 as an important point in time in the history of New Zealand Motorsport. The 2020 New Zealand Endurance Championship was a huge success for all involved. This is due to having all the ingredients for a successful recipe. We may well use this as a case study of where our domestic motorsport needs to be for future success. Other categories take note.
It’s difficult to beat Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell. It boasts some of the best facilities in NZ and is situated in one of the most picturesque locations we have. One of the media photographers said, ‘Even taking photos in the pits is a pleasure as you are assured to have a wonderful background.’
It was a winner-takes-all in both the One and Three-Hour races. Overall national honours and Class titles were up for grabs in one race. This added to the drama and stress of the occasion.
It was a gathering of most of our best domestic talent, both on and off the track (behind every great performance there are some great technicians and team members). Added to this was having Aston Martin factory driver Alex Riberas, who, fortunately for us, got stuck here in NZ with the lock-down. Ex-WRC driver Hayden Paddon was competing at his home track in the Three Hour race and Simon Evans – winner of the 2019/20 Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy – teamed up with Lance Hughes to win Class D, also in the Three-Hour.
Having FIA Formula 3 and Red Bull Junior Program driver Liam Lawson home and able to make his GT3 debut on Saturday was the icing on the cake for the event. We may well look back, when he is a F1 star, and say we were there when he was setting track records at Highlands.
Cool race cars
For many years we have seen some fantastic race cars imported into NZ for the South Island Endurance Series. On Saturday there was an outstanding (for NZ) display of GT3 (Aston Martin, Audi, Chev, Porsche), V8, TCR, home-built and production cars competing. No complaints in that department at all, although a couple of Ferraris would be magic!
A great sponsor
Both Alex Riberas and Darren Kelly, drivers for The Heart of Racing Aston Martin were humble in their victory in the Three-Hour race on Saturday. Adding to that, they commented that it was a privilege to do what they love doing and helping with the Heart of Racing foundation in raising money for a great cause, The Starship Foundation. We have to be thankful for their sponsorship that enabled much of what we saw take place.
Without a major sponsor, The Heart of Racing, we would not have had an outstanding TV package broadcast on Skysport. Volt TV got the package bang-on over the Castrol Toyota Racing Series last summer with an entertaining mixture or racing, commentary and action in the pits. Endurance racing always has its pit-drama and they had the camera and commentary right there as it happened. Throw in Greg Rust (who lives in NZ), Andrew Waite, Stephen McIvor and Avalon Biddle and there was never a dull moment.
A template that works
The host of the national championship was the South Island Endurance Racing Drivers Club (SIERDC) who have run the annual and very successful Carter’s Tyres South Island Endurance Series for many years. It has been a success because of some simple reasons. They don’t change the rules and they make it a great social occasion as well. Several drivers have pointed out that whether you have the most expensive budget or the cheapest car on the grid, everyone wants to have a beer afterwards and exchange stories. It is a formula that works and gives tremendous value or bang-for-buck to those that want to go racing.
Well there was a lot of money on display if you wanted to add up the value of the race cars, transporters plus the cost of hosting and being at the event. Success breeds success and one of the flow-on effects from the success of the South Island Endurance Series is that there is a continuation of drivers and teams that are prepared to commit and spend plenty in order to go endurance racing.
Saturday’s success was a collection of all the right ingredients used in a recipe that the SIERDC knows works. Kudos to Cate Paddon and the organising team behind it all.