The V8 SuperTourers this weekend will be the last major event held at Pukekohe using the existing circuit configuration before upgrades begin in readiness for the New Zealand round of the Australian V8 Supercars in April 2013.
This is the first time the V8 SuperTourers will be hurled around Pukekohe for the International 500 - a series totalling 500km. Twenty cars, piloted by 40 drivers, will battle it out in round two of the three-round endurance series which, with the sprint series already contested, makes up the seven-round championship.
With the regulars in the series are three drivers who drove the New Zealand A1GP car at one time or another - Jonny Reid, Matt Halliday and Chris van der Drift.
Reid is the only one of the three with a regular gig - driving the International Motorsport Driven-sponsored car - while the other two are co-drivers for Ant Pedersen and Tim Edgell.
"I'm feeling really good going into this weekend and very confident in the team and Wade," says Reid. "The last time I raced at Pukekohe was back in 2009 or 2010 in a Porsche Cup car and this weekend will be a bit of a milestone.
"I'm confident I can close the gap on McIntyre [he leads the series]. I've had the measure of McIntyre most of the season but we haven't managed to put it all together yet because of a few issues but I'm sure we can claw some points back."
US-based Cunningham hasn't raced at Pukekohe for nearly 10 years but isn't daunted by taking on a field that has a few mores laps under their belts.
"I was last here in 2004 but can still remember which way the track goes," says Cunningham.
"We did some running earlier in the week and covered quite a few laps. It'll be all good. The team have made some improvements to the car since Taupo and I feel like I'll be able to push a bit more."
Halliday is another international who came home to take on the locals on a track he has fond memories of.
"It's [Pukekohe] one of my favourite tracks and I've been on pole I don't know how many times, and the last time I raced here was in 2010 and I won the New Zealand Porsche race," says Halliday.
"It's the track I grew up watching my dad and uncle race on and then I started racing here. It's got great character and it might look simple but it takes great commitment to go fast."
Edgell and Van der Drift will team up in a new format after a fair amount of confusion around qualifying at the last enduro round in Taupo.
Van der Drift has lived in Europe since 2003 and has competed in Formula BMW, Formula Renault 2.0, World Series Renault 3.5, GP2 series and Superleague Formula. Currently, he's been contesting the Italian GT3 championship and last weekend grabbed pole in his McLaren MP3 12C.
"I know Chris from back in my karting days, where he was a 12-times New Zealand champion, so I'm confident he's a great choice to join us for this international endurance round," says Edgell.
Event organisers have changed the qualifying format and now only one driver will post the qualifying time rather than combining the best times of both drivers from two sessions.
There will also be a top-10 shootout to set the final grid positions. The drivers will then start race two from their finishing positions in the first race, with the grid positions for the final, longer third race on Sunday decided on accumulated points from the two preceding races.
Greg Murphy will be back behind the wheel for M3 racing Mike Pero Mortgages' Holden, paired with another V8 Supercars driver, Jack Perkins, and is on a track he had great success on when the V8 Supercars raced there in the early 2000s, winning four of the seven rounds.
Action starts today at 9.35am and on Sunday at 10.10am. Tonight's entertainment begins at 5.30 with The Feelers and the Jordan Luck Band headlining a number of talented Kiwi acts.