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McLaren 650S GT3 Lands in New Zealand

New Zealand’s growing endurance racing scene has been given a boost with the arrival of a McLaren 650S GT3 to the country.

The ex-Tony Quinn car is now in the hands of SBT Motorsport owner Glenn Smith. The car will race this weekend at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon where Smith and co-driver John de Veth will race in the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series Three Hour final.

Photo: Simon Chapman

It’s not the first time the car has raced in New Zealand having been part of the Hampton Downs 500 and Highlands 501 events as part of the Australian GT Championship in years past.

Tony Quinn and Andrew Waite scored a second place finish at the Highlands 501 last year before returning to Australia for the first half of this year’s season.

The car looks likely to return to Highlands Motorsport Park later this year for the New Zealand Endurance Championship final.

That’s partly why the team bought the car. With their Reiter Engineering-built SaReNi Camaro at the end of its development, Smith felt it was time to get a car that was more a bit more comfortable and capable of getting the job done.

“This car is about us having a big crack at the New Zealand Endurance Championship final at Highlands Motorsport Park,” Smith said.

Photo: Simon Chapman

“We’re already eligible for the final so we want to get ourselves developed so that when we go to the South Island we have a really good chance of winning that overall National Championship.”

This weekend Smith and de Veth will get their first competitive outing in the car. However, they’re not planning on setting the timesheets alight.

“We’ve just got to learn to drive it properly. I think a lot of it comes down to John and I doing more miles and learn how to get the most out of it.

“We’ll go carefully this weekend and then I’ll get Chris van der Drift to give us a hand. That helped a lot with the Camaro too when he worked out where we were losing time.”

Smith has had the chance to test the car briefly, but de Veth will get his first chance to drive the car on Friday before the event.

As regulars in the North Island Endurance Series, Smith and de Veth have long campaigned the Camaro in the series. However, a win with the car remained elusive.

Earlier this year the team came close to winning with the car at Pukekohe Park during the New Zealand Endurance Championship final. The team led with only a few minutes to go, but de Veth got pipped at the post by eventual winners Simon Evans and Chris Hanley for Wet & Forget Racing.

For de Veth, moving to the McLaren having not scored a win with the Camaro leaves him feeling slightly disappointed.

“We were winning the Three Hour then the rain came and we came second,” de Veth said.

“Glenn and the boys were pretty happy but I was a bit gutted. But that’s the beauty of endurance race, it’s now always on the driver.

“You can sit there all day and watch a driver go around but there are a lot of races where we’ve got somewhere or nowhere because of strategy. That’s what makes it such a team sport.”

The ENEOS North Island Endurance Series final takes place at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon over July 20–21. The Carter’s Tyres New Zealand Endurance Championship will be held at Highlands Motorsport Park over November 23–24.

ENEOS North Island Endurance Series calendar:
Round 1: North Waikato – Hampton Downs – 18-19 May 2018
Round 2: South Auckland – Pukekohe Park – 15-16 June 2018
Round 3: Feilding – Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon – 20-21 July 2018

Carter’s Tyres South Island Endurance Series calendar:
Round 1: Invercargill – Tertonga Park – 14-15 September 2018
Round 2: Christchurch – Mike Pero Motorsport Park – 28-29 September 2018
Round 3: Timaru – Levels Raceway – 12-13 October 2018

Carter’s Tyre Services New Zealand Endurance Championship:
Final: Cromwell – Highlands Motorsport Park – 23-24 November 2018

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