Drawing on his recent success with Kiwi V8 Supercar star Shane van Gisbergen in Australia, top New Zealand V8 touring car racer John McIntyre is rearing to get on track in his own V8 Ford
Starting at Pukekohe’s opening round on 5 November, McIntyre heads into his tenth season of the tough BNT V8 Championship fighting fit and fired up. The two-time NZV8 champion finished second and third as co-driver to van Gisbergen in the two demanding races of the Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercar endurance event.
“You can not beat actual racing miles as the best preparation for top level racing,” says the 33-year-old from his home in Nelson. “The Gold Coast enduros were arguably the toughest races of the V8 Supercar season when you look at the unforgiving street circuit, the heat and the intensity of competition. Shane and I delivered a fantastic result for Stone Brothers Racing and Ford with our two podium finishes. There’s definitely a boost in confidence from this kind of success.”
This is the fifth season that McIntyre’s own team, John McIntyre Racing, has been in operation and the small, Hawke’s Bay-based, highly-skilled crew is more determined than ever to take their third championship title.
“It’s a fresh start, a new season of seven championship rounds with three races each round,” says ‘Johnny Mac’.
“We’ve got fresh new livery on the #47 Blackwoods Paykels Protector Safety Falcon and everyone’s reenergised and focussed on winning the championship again after the disappointment of losing a whole round’s worth of points last season which took us out of contention for the title.”
Pukekohe’s opening round sees McIntyre focused on starting the season with the best possible points’ haul.
“I’ve had 51 race wins in this class – race wins mean good points and I want to nail this first round by scoring pole position and the first two race wins. Do this again at the following round at Ruapuna in Christchurch late in November and we’ve set ourselves up for the rest of the season and potentially the championship title.”
McIntyre holds the current lap record at Pukekohe (with a time 1:01.159 set in November 2009) and draws on his previous successes at the Franklin district circuit. He set pole position there last year and has won at least one race on the high speed 2.8 km circuit at each round in the last four seasons.
McIntyre regards the new brake package available to NZV8 competitors as this season’s biggest challenge.
“Certainly the new optional brake package is stronger than our previous set-up. I think how competitors adapt to the new brakes – learning how to make the most of them – will be the deciding factor for this season’s championship.”
The new brake set-up involves larger brake rotors and single piece calipers on all four wheels. Brake pads also increase in thickness with the same compound used front and rear.
“Brakes are so important in a race car and I think the new set-up with provide fans with even more exciting racing. There will be more passing under brakes and the confidence to pass under brakes later in the race when our previous brake package might have been running out of steam.
“The key will be how quickly each team learns how to set the brakes up for qualifying, then the top ten shootout and then races. Those minute set-up changes can make all the difference. Other than the brakes, there haven’t been any other major changes to the cars this season, so our other preparation has been more of checking and replacing key components for maximum strength, power and speed.”
With his own team, McIntyre has an enviable record in New Zealand’s premier race class – the team won the NZV8 championship in 2007 and 2008, and placed second in 2009 and 2010.
“Of course, we’re gunning for our third championship title. The competition among the regular top-runners is always intense. It’s probably going to be closer than ever this season and more drivers are going to be knocking on the door of the top ten and top five as they sort their brake set-up.”
McIntyre’s 2010-11 NZV8 campaign sees him contest seven championship rounds: Pukekohe Park from 5 to 7 November, Ruapuna Park in Christchurch from 26 to 28 November, Teretonga Park from 14 to 16 January, Timaru International Motor Raceway from 21 to 23 January, Manfeild circuit in Feilding from 11 to 13 February, Taupo Motorsport Park from 11 to 13 March, with the final on the streets of Hamilton in April. For the first time, the NZV8s’ season final takes place at the ITM 400 where the Kiwis create a hugely popular support class for the Australian V8 Supercar event.
Each round of the NZV8s involves practice and qualifying on Saturday and three races on Sunday. Saturday’s qualifying has a new format this year – all competitors head out for one 20 minute session, then the fastest ten drivers get one flying lap during the top ten shootout to decide final starting positions for the first race. The second race grid comes from finishing positions in race one. Race three sees the drivers’ points from the first two races added together, ranked and then reversed to give a full reverse grid.