Southland's Inky (Ian) Tulloch and Nelson's John McIntyre head to Hampton Downs this weekend with the focus of adding another New Zealand race championship to their collection as they tackle the first of seven events for the 2016 season.
Saturday's three-hour endurance race comes with a New Zealand title - the golden prize Tulloch, McIntyre and 26 other teams will line up for. The pair will share drive the Tulloch Motorsport German built SaReNi Reiter Camaro GT3 that took them to overall victory in the 2015 North Island Endurance series.
Set to unveil the new-look and aerodynamically upgraded Camaro, the South Islanders take on the North Island based one-off event as a precursor to the six endurance events being held later in the year.
Team owner Tulloch cautions at his level of expectation, based on a racing career spanning four decades, including four New Zealand truck racing championship titles, Australian truck racing title wins and various sports car/rallying victories.
"There are a lot of very good cars and driver combinations that will be there for this one-off event and I've only ever raced at Hampton Downs once before. So I recognise the limits of our hopes and ambitions as clearly seat mileage there counts," says Tulloch.
"Although based on our results and performance last year it would have been a natural advantage we had heading into this event. That is why we will again run our own race to a pre-determined strategy. I have always realised that if you want to finish first, first you must finish. Endurance racing reflects that even more.
Tulloch reinforces his point on the basis of the wins accumulated by the pairing on debut in 2015: "The putting together of the two teams, the grey hair and the dark hair has worked pretty well really. So it gives us a high-degree of confidence heading into the weekend at having a team and car I have worked with and won with before. But like anything there are always things you can't predict will happen - not the least of which will be the weather."
Three-time New Zealand V8 champion McIntyre says one ingredient to winning will be having what he terms a 'clean' car against a line-up of competitors in cars such as Audi, BMW, Ferrari and Porsche.
"At some stage in the race you will probably have to push to get track position, to keep on the lead lap or have to find some pace. To do that the car has to be clean. These cars are about aerodynamics, so if you knock off or damage the endplates on the front of the car or get the rear diffuser damaged it's not going to help. In a sprint race things like that aren't as important but in an endurance race any performance degradation will compound over time - and it's time you can't make up. So that is our focus - to stay clean, especially when there are 26 other cars on the track of varying speeds. The key is keeping the car in top shape so we have the pace in hand," says the birthday celebrating 39-year-old.
"Last year we were flat-out learning about the car and gelling as a team. In that process you get things wrong and some things right. So this year is about building on all the information we gathered last year - and now not having to sweat the small stuff - we know the processes. We go into the weekend knowing there are less variables, especially since Hampton Downs is a happy hunting ground for us. The first time Inky and I won together in the car was there last year - plus it was also my first win at Hampton Downs.
The race starts at 12:35pm with the chequered flag to be shown at 3:35pm.