Former SsangYong Race Series front runners Chelsea Herbert and Christina Orr-West will front a new team at the final two rounds of this year's Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series, as well as a number of future marquee and international events.

The duo will pilot an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 campaigned by Mike Racing - an emerging squad led by team owner Michael Chua. The Prodrive-built GT4 Aston Martin is a former regular on the Asian GT circuit, and a former 12-hour series championship winner overseas.

The deal for both Herbert and Orr-West to race for the team began with a series of emails, with the opportunity almost appearing too good to be true.

"I was pretty skeptical at first, but once I got the meeting and came down to Palmerston North and saw the cars for myself I started to get semi excited," said Orr-West.

Christina Orr-West (left) and Chelsea Herbert (right). Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing
Christina Orr-West (left) and Chelsea Herbert (right). Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing

For both drivers, the V8-powered Vantage represents a very different beast to what they're used to; the duo fresh from seasons in the SsangYong Race Series (Orr-West) and the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship (Herbert) respectively.

Advertisement

"Speedwise, the [NZ V8] is actually a little bit faster, but in terms of the weights of the car the Aston is a lot lighter, so it means that the handling of the car is a lot different. Paddle shift - I don't have paddle shift in the V8. And being on the left side rather than the right side is a little bit of a change as well," said Herbert.

"The whole vehicle, there's nothing really the same about it apart from it having four wheels and an engine. But other than that it's all very different, which is exciting."

"Compared to my SsangYong it's a night and day difference. Speedwise it's just incredible. I'm think I'm going to hop back into my SsangYong and go down the straights having a cup of tea!" added Orr-West.

Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing
Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing

The squad are likely to find themselves in the centre of the South Island endurance Class E battle, where they will go up against a variety of Porsche 911s, plus some of the other more wild creations on the South Island grid. From there, the team aim to widen their scope to include an assault on the 24 Hours of Dubai, as well as a potential campaign at next year's Hampton Downs 12 Hour.

"GT4 is basically a tier down from the GT3 cars, so it's a good step up for the girls to build up a platform from a touring car to a GT4 car, before they jump to the next level GT3 cars," said team owner Michael Chua.

"A GT4 car is much easier to drive, and Aston Martin has a very good history. We have a lot of knowledge and experience with the car, I think that should be an advantage for us."

Herald Sport understands that the team have an expansion plan in place, with more cars and events on their calendar set to be announced over the coming months. In the meantime, both drivers hope that the move can see them progress through the GT-racing ranks, and potentially spring-board them to some overseas races.

Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing
Photo / Aaron Mai, Mike Racing

"I love to progress in anything that I do, [...] but first I've got to prove myself in the Aston Martin, and hopefully Chelsea and I can show everyone what we've got," said Orr-West.

"I believe the way that motorsport is going at the moment, the more popular track is the endurance track," added Herbert. "It's definitely cool to get your foot in the door, especially overseas. I've been wanting to do that for a long time. It's what I've been working towards, and to finally get the opportunity to do that is just awesome.

"I'm really looking forward to it all, and I think to get my name out there and to get my foot in the door overseas ... there's nothing better really."

The next round of the South Island Endurance Series takes place in two-weeks time at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch, with the series finale at Timaru International Raceway following on October 14.