A healthy field is expected for the opening round of the BNT NZ Touring Cars Championship, to be held at Pukekohe, November 4-6.
Reigning Class One champion Simon Evans will lead the charge and aim to defend his title with a number of new challengers hoping to wrestle the number one from his door.
2015/16 season Class Two champion Brock Cooley will make the step up to Class One campaigning a V8 SuperTourer spec Ford Falcon with backing from long-term sponsor Speedy Signs.
Past V8 Ute champion, Waipukurau’s Sam Barry will take over the Team Richards Toyota Camry previously raced by Australian Jason Bargwanna, with Bargwanna to pilot a Ford Falcon run out of the same stable.
Tom Alexander will drive the Holden Commodore previously raced by Andre Heimgartner, and Cambridge’s Nick Ross will return in his new look Nissan Altima hoping to have put his engine gremlins of last season behind him.
Also look for Lance Hughes in his Holden and Central Muscle Car regular John Midgley running a Ford Falcon in class one.
Parity changes will be made to all Class One cars in an effort from category organisers to close the performance gap between cars.
Last season, all Class One (V8 SuperTourer and TLX specification) cars ran on the same Dunlop tyres, and aerodynamic and performance changes were made to further close the gap.
To ensure fair competition in the class this season, the category intends to have every engine mapped to an equal level. The simplest way to achieve this will be by dyno testing every car that is entering the Championship. An engine power window will then be established and each car will then be tuned to fit within that window. Class One competitors will now have electronic throttle bodies fitted for this season so that parity tunes can be readily achieved.
Reigning Class One Champion Simon Evans says the parity changes will spice up the racing for the fans.
“I think it will create more exciting and even closer racing and will provide more drivers vying for the win of each race,” says Evans.
“It’s also good to see the likes of Brock Cooley and Sam Barry step up to Class One, which proves that Class Two is a good feeder category.”
“They were both quick in Class Two, I expect them to be quick this season.”
In Class Two, last season’s runner up Brad Lathrope, returns in his MWN Civil Ford Falcon and is expected to be challenged by Invercargill’s Jamie Conroy who is tipped as a favourite to win the class in his Ford Falcon.
Lathrope says that for him to win the championship, in what will be his third attempt, he needs to be consistent.
“First and foremost to win a championship you need consistency, coming into my third season for Class Two and progressively improving every season this is most definitely my best shot at championship to date,” says Lathrope.
“Last season I unfortunately had two DNFs as opposed to Brock Cooley’s one, so the biggest challenge this season from myself and teams perspective is to work on finishing every race and consistently being up the front challenging for the win.”
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of having new drivers entering the class such as Jamie Conroy and I have no doubt in my mind they mean business just as much as we do.”
“Jamie will be coming out to do same job as us – win. It’s not going to be easy by any means but if my team and I work together and achieve our goals round by round fingers crossed we will be holding that trophy at end of it.”
Another Southlander, Liam MacDonald returns for round one at Pukekohe and is expected to be fast, as too will Bronson Porter, Nick Farrier and Simon Fleming.
Add to that the entries of newcomers Chelsey Herbert and Robert Wallace both driving Fords.
The BNT NZ Touring Cars will compete in a six round 2016/17 Championship season starting at the Pukekohe Supercar event, November 4-6.