The Suzuki Swift Sport Cup, a one-make car race class, kicks off for the 2010/2011 summer season with off-shore entries bolstering the number of New Zealand drivers chasing for a national championship title, starting at Pukekohe this weekend (5-7 November)
Entering its fourth season the series of 1600cc road-legal cars is contested across five months and six locations throughout the country. And now with the establishment of a mirror series in Australia, New South Wales based Allan Jarvis is the first off-shore entrant to test the New Zealand competition.
Expected to be joined by two more Australians during the season, Suzuki championship co-ordinator Paul Burborough says it should produce even closer racing this season.
“We are excited about the increased level of interest this year, on both sides of the Tasman. It’s really good to see an Australian line up for round one, along with 16 Kiwi’s to make it the biggest field to start the season in four years. Two more drivers are likely to join in later on, so it’s is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet.”
“Two thirds of the grid is new competitors, new to the class, and in fact new to the sport. This really shows that we have provided the sport with a great entry level tin-top category at the highest level here in New Zealand.”
With the major backing of Suzuki New Zealand and ongoing support of Winger Suzuki, the category has continued to grow against the insistent trends of global economic recession. The Swift was ranked second in passenger car sales for the month of September; a point Suzuki New Zealand’s motorsport manager Darren Stevens says is relevant to the coming championship season.
“Its broad appeal is showcased by the diverse cross-section of drivers entered for the championship. From drivers with speedway backgrounds we have Jamie Gaskin (15, Wellington) and Sam Barry (16, Takapau). Also, scholarship entrant Amy Vincent (18, Karaka), means we have at least one female on the grid. Regular Dane Fisher (Auckland) returns to partner up once more with four year veteran Marc Spring (Auckland) in the Trinity Media Swift, and Grant Ryan (Lower Hutt) or the ‘pie man’ as he is fondly known. Grant enters his second year alongside Hamilton’s Shaun Lawrence and the Lauder bothers, A.J. (16, Turua), and Brad (14, Turua). They have a strong family pedigree and the support of grandparents Frank and Robin Radisich. "
“So all together it's certainly a strong Suzuki Swift Sport Cup line-up this season and you can be sure there will be some very exciting and close racing as all contenders heckle for both pole and championship points.”
Furthering its appeal, a $50,000 scholarship package supported by Castrol has seen additional entries following the selection process held in August.
“This last season’s scholarship had the best attendance we’ve ever had in the three years we’ve been running it. Out of the ten who made the scholarship shoot-out seven of them are driving in the Swift Sport Cup series this year,” added Stevens.
“Mark Gibson’s brother, Rob (Taupo) is an example. Even though he wasn’t in the scholarship, he attended to support his brother and after what he saw and experienced he got excited enough to join in as well.”
Making the final cut and winning the use of the Castrol Suzuki was 15-year-old Tom Barker of Christchurch. With experience in karting and Formula Ford, the Ilam based secondary school student says it was the ideal way to start a racing career.
“The financial opportunity the scholarship offers, it was definitely a big carrot for me. In other categories there didn’t seem to be as much interest by bigger teams so Suzuki seemed like the way forward – and I’m sure it is. Basically; wanting to be a race car driver it seemed the thing to do - so I’m looking forward to it,” said Barker after securing the coveted scholarship position.
“I’ve always dreamed of racing the V8 Supercars and this is a huge step forward to achieve that goal.”
Joining Barker as first-timers in the category are Rex McCutcheon (16, Waiuku), Chris Cox (17, Rangiora), Brad Lauder (14, Turua), Daniel Liemburg (14, Timaru), Rob Gibson (Taupo), Mark Gibson (Taupo), Jamie Gaskin (15, Wellington), Sam Barry (16, Takapau) and Allan Jarvis (NSW, Australia).
All drivers get an initial look at the 2.8km Pukekohe circuit on Friday morning (5 November) for the first of two test sessions. Unique with its long straights and elevation change, the Pukekohe track rewards smooth drivers who can position themselves clear of the bumps that cause speed drag. Saturday morning qualifying decides the start order for the afternoon 10-lap race with two races on the Sunday - 10-laps in the morning with a reversed grid 12-lap conclusion to the weekend. Each race place is awarded championship points, with a maximum of 75 for a win.
The Suzuki Swift Sport Cup is again part of the televised motorsport coverage provided by TV3 , with each Suzuki race broadcast on Gillette Motorsport fronted by Shaun Summerfield. Sky TV provides additional coverage on its Fujitsu Motorsport NZ show from 25 November 2010.
Suzuki Swift Sport Cup calendar 2010/2011
1 5-7 November 2010 Pukekohe
2 26-28 November 2010 Ruapuna
3 14-16 January 2011 Teretonga
4 20-23 January 2011 Timaru
5 11-13 February 2011 Manfeild
6 11-13 March 2011 Taupo