SMEG Racing has today confirmed it will step up to an endurance racing programme beginning at the New Zealand Endurance Championship final next month with a current specification Audi R8 LMS Ultra for regular drivers Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson.
The team has quietly become one of the most successful teams in the history of New Zealand circuit racing with three national V8 Touring Car titles and a runner up spot in the New Zealand Endurance Championship in the last three seasons, as well as finishing runner up to Greg Murphy in the 2013/2014 V8 SuperTourer series with Evans at the wheel.
The team's Audi will debut at the 2017 New Zealand Endurance Championship decider - for North and South Island champions - at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park on March 18 before undertaking the ENEOS North Island Endurance Championship which has races at Taupo, Hampton Downs and Pukekohe Park this coming May, June and July respectively.
SMEG Racing is also hoping to secure an entry for the all-Kiwi crew at both the Highlands 101 and Hampton Downs 101 events, which are both part of the Australian GT series and are the highest profile GT races in New Zealand. It will all be preparation for a full effort on the Bathurst 12 hour event, and this could be in 2018 depending on funding.
Team manager will be Stephen Giles, a regular at SMEG racing in recent season, and the man behind Giles Motorsport's Toyota Racing Series team. Giles was also chief engineer at McLaren for a period, working with two time Formula One champion Mika Hakkinen and Juan Pablo Montoya before returning to his native New Zealand in 2006. The car will be engineered by Matt Houston, who has also been in the SMEG Racing fold for the last four seasons.
SMEG Racing Team principal Owen Evans explained: "We've enjoyed the challenges of the national touring car championship but feel with the titles we have secured we have nothing left to prove and it's definitely the right time for a new challenge.
"The growth in GT level endurance racing in both Australia and New Zealand is obvious and the Bathurst 12 Hour race is already an iconic event which the best drivers in the world want to be part of. We see that as our ultimate goal but we know we have a lot to learn about the car and how to get the most out of it, so we are starting with the New Zealand championship and the big Aussie GT events that take place here before confirming what we will do at Bathurst, but going there and being competitive is definitely the goal for the team."