It promises to be a special homecoming for Australian-based Kiwis, Tim Miles and Jaxon Evans, who look set to wrap up the Australian Endurance Championship at the Highlands 501 in Central Otago this weekend.
Miles and Evans go into the final round at Highlands with a comfortable lead over their nearest rivals.
"We've done the maths and worked out where we need to finish to win the championship," says Miles. "There are points for qualifying as well but we reckon if we finish 4th or higher, that should be enough to win the title"
"To win the championship at Highlands would be incredibly special. Both Jaxon and I are from Ashburton originally and I've got a house in Arrowtown so it's essentially my home track. Jaxon and I have to try and approach it like any other race but I'd be fibbing if I told you the championship wasn't at the back of our minds."
Miles is a successful businessman in Sydney and has a long history in New Zealand motorsport while 21-year-old Jaxon Evans, who's based on the Gold Coast, is being touted as one of the most exciting young talents in Australia.
Miles' father was a founder of the Ashburton Car Club and was friends with Rod McElrea, whose son Andy runs McElrea Racing, a successful racing team based in Queensland. Tim and Andy grew up racing cars with Jaxon's Dad, John Evans, another Ashburton local in Formula Ford and South Island Sports Car championships.
The dream of racing at the top level saw Miles head to the UK in his early 20s but he soon realised he didn't have the raw speed or the budget to keep up with his rivals. He started working as a dogsbody for one of the leading British teams and worked his way up to the role of team manager.
"I think I learned more about motorsport from racing in New Zealand than I did working overseas," says Miles. "You've got to work smarter in New Zealand. You've got to improvise more because you're not racing with the same budget as the teams in Europe. That's why Kiwis who go to Europe tend to rise through the ranks quickly because we're good at coming up with solutions."
Miles moved to Australia in 1993 where he held a variety of executive positions specialising in merger and acquisition transactions. In 2002, he founded Miles Advisory Partners, a very successful corporate advisory practice that has completed more than $6bn worth of merger and acquisition transactions, including the $300m sale of V8 Supercars. He was also a co-owner of V8 Supercars team Tasman Motorsport and a shareholder in Triple Eight Racing, the team behind the hugely successful Red Bull Racing team.
Being involved in the business side of motorsport led to an opportunity to get behind the driver's seat of a race car for the first time in 25 years in 2012.
"It almost happened by accident," says Miles. "Phil Ward, who owned the Aussie Racing Cars category asked me if I wanted to have a crack in one. I did and I had an absolute ball and I remembered why I loved it so much."
Miles competed in the Aussie Racing Cars for a couple of seasons before graduating to racing Porsches. He won the GT3 Cup Challenge Elite Class in 2016 with support from McElrea Racing where a young Jaxon Evans was serving his apprentice as a workshop assistant while learning his trade as a race car driver.
"The class win in the Porsche was very satisfying but this Australian Endurance Championship is on another level," says Miles. "It's also a bonus to be part of a programme that is helping put Jaxon on the road to success because I think he is going to be a very special talent."
"I've known his father John for 40 years and I watched Jaxon when he was go-karting as a young fella and he was always so calm. He's got a massive future in motorsport wherever he ends up."
"He's got raw speed and he can hop out of a car and tell you what it's doing right and wrong and what you need to change to make it better. To be able to have the time and the presence of mind to do that and still churn out fast lap times is rare. I worked with quite a few drivers in the UK who ended up in Formula 1 and Jaxon has the same body language as the top drivers. Pace comes easy to him."