Motorsport: NZ team faces a black future

Chris Pither is unlikely to be racing in a Super Black Racing car next year.  Photo / photosport.nz
Chris Pither is unlikely to be racing in a Super Black Racing car next year. Photo / photosport.nz

Super Black Racing is unlikely to be on the Supercars grid in 2017. The New Zealand-owned outfit has been left searching for a Racing Entitlements Contract, which allows teams to compete in the series, after Prodrive co-owner Rusty French purchased the REC the team has used the past two years.

French had looked at racing the team out of the Brad Jones Racing garage but the Herald on Sunday understands that move is unlikely now.

Super Black Racing boss Greg Hahn, who has already announced his departure from the team at the season's end, was not prepared to talk about the team's future aside from saying things would be clearer after the season finale on the streets of Sydney next weekend.

Driver Chris Pither has shown glimpses of talent this year - winning pole position for a race at Ipswich in the middle of the year a standout - but is now looking at finding an alternative drive.

The most likely seats available are the second car at Garry Rodgers Motorsport or a drive with Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport.

Super Black Racing first competed as a wildcard entry in the 2014 Bathurst 1000 before a first full season in the championship last year.

Owner and founder Tony Lentino died from cancer in July and the future of the team has been in limbo ever since.

Pither said reports of Super Black Racing's departure from Prodrive Racing was a surprise.

"It was a little bit out of the blue I guess, and in some ways it's disappointing," he said. "Obviously I was hoping to continue as we were. At this point, I've got nothing organised, so that's quite worrying. It's definitely nervous times."

The New Zealander, and the future of his all-Kiwi squad has been put under the spotlight after it was reported earlier this week that former Team BOC pilot Jason Bright would be taking over Prodrive Racing's fourth entry - leaving Pither and his team up in the air with just one round remaining in the 2016 season.

After an up-and-down season, Pither sits 19th in the championship points - having hoped that continuity with SBR would help improve his form looking towards 2017.

"Coming to the end of my first season, I really want to try to stay in the same team, same environment. That's obviously the best way to grow.

"You start to build a relationship with your engineer, and the way you communicate with your engineer so that they can understand what you need out of the car.

"You need that two to three years really to start to consistently be at your potential. I think this year we've had a few glimpses that show we can be up the pointy end.

"Obviously that pole at Queensland Raceway was a bit of a confidence booster for me, but we've been a little bit inconsistent."

Despite the situation unfolding late in the year, Pither remains determined to secure a full-time slot for 2017 - with a preference for continuing to work with Super Black Racing.

"I'm hunting around as much as possible to gain opportunities to try and piece something together so we can stay on the grid for me, [and for] Super Black Racing.

"Tony and Emily Lentino gave me the opportunity this year to fulfil my dream and step up to the championship, and I'm very grateful for that. The connection with the whole Super Black vision is something that I really enjoyed and want to try and continue if I can."

However, the former V8 Ute champion wouldn't rule out pursuing other avenues - including stepping into a co-driver role or competing in an alternate series, like the Australian GT Championship.

"I definitely look at all options. Supercars was definitely the dream, but I just want to be in something, racing something. I'm not going to be too picky, I just want to make sure I can continue to be in a race car next year and hopefully continue to improve."

- NZ Herald

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