One of the surprising inclusions in the entry list for next weekend's Hampton Downs 101 endurance event was Richard Moore. The former NZ SuperTourer driver is set to co-drive with dual Bathurst 1000 champion Tony Longhurst in a Miedecke Stone Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Moore was one of the foundation drivers in the NZ SuperTourer series, driving alongside Greg Murphy and Paul Manuell at M3 Racing. Over a stint of three seasons Moore progressed from being a top-10 performer to winning races - most notably defeating teammate and childhood hero Murphy at Pukekohe Park Raceway in 2014.
For the 24-year-old the Australian GT drive signals the potential end to an intermittent hiatus from top-level motorsport - only interrupted by a selection of drives with endurance squad M2 Motorsport.
"What sane human wouldn't chop off their left proverbial to drive an Aston Martin GT3 with Longhurst and the Miedecke Stone race-winning team," Moore told velocitynews.co.nz.
"I'm looking forward to working with Tony Longhurst and I'm sure I will be learning a huge amount from him. Hopefully I will also be able to help him and together we can achieve a strong result, which I'm confident we can do."
Though his and Longhurst's Aston Martin [above] is currently bare of sponsors, it does possess a successful pedigree, as a chassis formerly owned by high-profile international GT outfit Craft-Bamboo Racing.
Discussions around the drive have roots in Thailand, with Moore initially requested to join the team for a race at Fuji. Though that opportunity didn't eventuate, Moore was eventually contacted by George Miedecke to pilot the car in the endurance championship.
The drive is currently a one-off deal for Moore, however, it could potentially help the Aucklander rekindle his motorsport career. Opportunities in GT racing could see him travelling to foreign countries, replicating the path of names like Earl Bamber, Chris van der Drift, and Jono Lester.
"Goals for me are broad. Ideally I'm here to introduce myself to the Australian GT crowd," he said.
"This isn't a 'one off' for me - it's a chance to prove that I can be a valuable asset to a team both locally and abroad. In my eyes a strong performance for the weekend is not necessarily a podium finish but a strong consistent run. But regardless of all that I'm still a racing driver and I always want to win."
"It's not an easy game down here in New Zealand for any athlete, and I have taken a little step back from the super competitive side. That being said motorsport still fills many aspects of my life and I'm only looking for more ways to immerse myself in it.
"This is an awesome opportunity for me to put my foot in the door and expose my ability to a heap of people, many who won't know me and many who will have assumed I was not still serious about professional motorsport anymore - totally not the case."
Further aiding his hopes is the growing GT landscape in Australasia - underlined by the success of the Mahindra North Island Endurance Series, the Carters South Island Endurance Series, and the AGT.
"The cars are second to none, and the racing is just as hot. It has a massive challenge in front of it to compete with the age old Ford versus Holden rivalry, but less so here than Australia. Australia has proven it can do that, so I have no doubt it will continue to rise in popularity here," added Moore.
"It's really going to attract those who truly appreciate top end performance cars. Perhaps the sponsors we see will shift from the likes of Jack Daniel's and Woodstock to Veuve and Bombay Saphire - wouldn't that be nice!"
This will be the Moore's debut in GT3 machinery, having previously driven in several different cars including SuperTourers and Porsche Carrera Cup cars. But he remains confident; hopeful that his existing knowledge of Hampton Downs, further aided by his background as a driver trainer with Downforce NZ, will help bridge any gap in performance.
"By career choice I spend almost every day in a car and most of these at Hampton Downs. I could argue I have done more laps around Hampton Downs than any of the other drivers lining up on the 30th.
"Perhaps my old team mate Murph [Greg Murphy] will be calling me up for some pointers before the track walk on Thursday!"
The opening qualifying session for the Hampton Downs 101 is scheduled for 10.30am on Saturday morning, with the race itself the following day at 1.45pm. Moore is one of 14 New Zealanders taking part in the race - joining the likes of Graeme Smyth, 'Mad Mike' Whiddett, and Dominic Storey.
"I am eternally grateful for the financial backing I have received from a select few people to be able to pursue this opportunity - they know who they are and I guess that is what makes motorsport opportunities happen in New Zealand."