Around 28 New Zealand V8s are expected to line up for three races on the support card for the V8 Supercars on the Hamilton street circuit over the weekend of 18-20 April.
The New Zealand V8s are competing in a non-championship trophy round comprising three races. Regular championship regulations apply, except for the controversial full reverse grid third race. In Hamilton all three New Zealand V8 races will feature regular fastest-first grids.
Leading drivers, including recently re-crowned New Zealand V8 champion John McIntyre, say it’s exciting to have the opportunity to race on a brand-new circuit, particularly a street circuit.
“When the New Zealand V8 class was in its early stages as the Tranzam Lights, we raced on the Wellington street circuit,” recalls McIntyre “But many drivers in our class haven’t faced the challenges of driving on the concrete barrier-defined limits of a true street circuit.”
McIntyre says that from everything he’s seen to date, he believes the organisers of the Hamilton 400 have done a fantastic job. “The design looks wide, open and very fast. It’s been cleverly done from the start and could become the best street circuit in Australasia,” says the Nelson-based BP Ultimate Ford driver who secured his second consecutive New Zealand V8 championship title in March.
McIntyre adds: “We want to win at Hamilton. There’s a lot of pride at stake! Our major sponsors will be there and it’s a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand sponsors to get the exposure with the V8 Supercar audience.”
One New Zealand V8 driver will be particularly busy during the three-day event. Fresh from winning the New Zealand truck racing championship in Timaru earlier in April, Hamiltonian Kayne Scott will contest two Fords in a total of six races. Scott, who finished third overall in this season’s New Zealand V8 series, will race the Fujitsu-sponsored New Zealand V8 for Mark Petch Motorsport in three races which are mostly back-to-back with the V8 Supercar races where Scott contests the Team Kiwi Racing Ford.
“The biggest challenge is probably the fatigue — physical and mental — as I do my best to do justice to both cars and both teams,” says Scott. “But I’m definitely looking forward to racing on the track. Street circuits are different, obviously. Adelaide is a great track and I think Hamilton will be a great layout too with some high speed aspects and some slower parts. But the real making of the event will be how the community gets behind it. Adelaide does it so well. It will be great to see Hamilton embrace this.”
The best-placed Holden driver in the recently finished championship behind the Fords of McIntyre, Angus Fogg and Scott, Auckland-based Andy Booth says it’s a very important weekend for the New Zealand V8s, whether or not it’s a championship round.
“We’re looking forward to putting on a good show for our sponsors,” says Booth, a former two-time champion. “It’s the big home event for Tasman Motorsport with Greg Murphy and Jason Richards running in the Supercars and me in the New Zealand V8s, and our new sponsor Big Ben Pies will have a big presence.”
Booth endorses McIntyre’s opinion of the circuit, having spent time there with Murphy during the pre-event build-up. “Hamilton organisers have done a brilliant job with the design. The circuit is a lot wider on the corner exits than expected.”
Booth cautions others driving in the support classes not to be over-enthusiastic on the street circuit. “If someone crashes and our practice is red-flagged while their car is lifted off the circuit by crane, we don’t get to make up the lost practice time.”
With around 28 New Zealand V8s tackling the Hamilton street circuit for the first time, fans are sure to see an ultra-competitive trio of races featuring leading drivers such as Fogg, Paul Radisich, Paul Manuell, Clark Proctor, Dean Perkins and Luke Youlden, while former V8 champion Paul Pedersen will drive again the International Motorsport Ford he campaigned at Taupo’s A1GP meeting. After not contesting the New Zealand V8 series this season, other than these two high profile events, hard-charging Pedersen is considering a full-time return for 2008-09.