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Stars in cars at Taupō this weekend

New Zealand’s next motor racing champion is in Taupō this weekend (18-19 March) for the sixth round of the Super Sprint MotorSport New Zealand Championship – to collect points toward their coveted steppingstone to stardom.

Along with the continuing Toyota 86 Championship, the weekend includes the Valvoline D1NZ, Golden Homes GT New Zealand and TradeZone GTRNZ categories. In total, 107 cars will be racing at the central North Island location of Taupō Motorsport Park.

One is Taupō based and 2013 NZ Endurance Champion Jono Lester.

“A lot of my family now live in Taupō and I moved there since returning from Asia last spring,” said the 33-year old.

“While I haven’t raced much at the track since the Porsche Challenge Cup days I’m looking forward to being there in a proper GT car. It’s a circuit I’ve had plenty of good results at and really enjoy driving.”

Lester will race in the Golden Homes GT NZ category with Hereman Malmezac (Porsche 991 Manthey Racing Cup Car).

The third of four rounds for the GT NZ Championship has a new entrant – Wellington driver Rianna O’Meara-Hunt will line up in in a Porsche Cayman GT4.

The multiple NZ Karting Champion has made the switch to GT racing this year, having claimed a spot in the US based The Heart of Racing GT4 driver search.

“A big thanks to Heremana Malmezac of Aedifice Property Group and FHK Racing for organising the car for me to run with Prime Speed Sports. I’ve found these GT4 cars are much like a go-kart, so am looking forward to getting out on track at Taupo. It’s the weekend before I head back to the USA for my first race at Sonoma, so will be good to get a little bit of racing mileage under my belt,” said O’Meara-Hunt.

For a number of those racing – it is a home weekend. Master racer John Penny is again behind the wheel of a Toyota 86. Other locals include Ken Hunter, Brian Hamilton and Dave Iceton (TradeZone GTRNZ), with Taylor James and Connor Halligan competing in D1NZ.

Heading the Toyota 86 Championship, Matakana’s Brock Gilchrist has a comfortable 65-point lead over Morrinsville’s Claye Osborne. Top rookie Rylan Gray is fifth in the standings, shadowed by Penny, a slender 13 points behind.

The Valvoline D1NZ series kicks off round three with a practice session on the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. They then take over the circuit mid-afternoon with a series of qualifying runs before the top-24 run off gets underway from 5:20pm.

Sunday’s switching from race to drift brings the top-16 to the track late morning before they finish the weekend’s action with back-to-back battles from 4pm.

Leading the Valvoline D1NZ Pro category after two of five rounds, defending champion ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse holds a massive advantage. In second place and with a new motor in his car is Tauranga’s Kurt Blackie. In third and only 16 points behind is local

Taylor James. The weekend’s entry list includes three international’s: New Caledonia’s Jeremy Slamet, Perth Australia’s Mitch Larner and Victoria Australia’s Jason Ferron.

It’s also a return for the TradeZone GTRNZ category. Unique in that its home to so many different GT-style cars, it brings Kiwi engineering to the fore. Separated into classes based on speed, from the fastest GT1 to the less modified GT4, the weekend’s field of 43 cars swings from the James Annabell Dodge Viper to the Glen Mouat Datsun Sunny.

Current GT1 points leader Wayne Conder will have Kerry Jones breathing down his neck as the pair of Corvette’s square off. In the GT2 class, it’s Australia vs Japan with the V8 Falcon of Shane Whitley trailing the K20 Honda Integra of Shane Parsons.

The GT1-2 class have three 10 lap races: Saturday morning, Sunday morning and a final from 2:44pm Sunday afternoon.

The GT3-4 class have three eight lap races: Saturday afternoon, first thing Sunday morning (8:20am) and from 1:26pm Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s racing will be broadcast live to TV3, Sky Sport and Fox Sports Australia (plus Pasifika TV), with highlights of the Saturday action aired later.

Spectator tickets can be pre-purchased online at supersprint.co.nz or bought at the gate.

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