Top Ford team, the Caltex-backed International Motorsport squad, has played a key role in the growth and development of the Parker ENZED NZ V8s Championship which tops the bill at the first round of the 2006/07 Mike Pero Motorsport Series at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend.
The Parker ENZED NZV8s series continues to go from strength to strength and the man again flying the Star Mart flag for the International Motorsport team, Angus Fogg, says that it is great to see the country's premier 'tin-top' series get bigger and better every year.
" We've certainly come a long way with the series, even just in the last two or three years. When I started it was as a privateer with just the one car and trailer and here I am now part of a professional team running two cars in what has got to be one of the best touring car championships in the world."
Fogg and Caltex Havoline-backed teammate Paul Pedersen were amongst the front-runners last season with Star Mart-man Fogg ending up second overall after a season-long battle with eventual Parker-ENZED 2005/06 title winner Kayne Scott.
With Scott driving a Holden Commodore and Fogg the Star Mart Ford Falcon, series promoter The MotorSport Company could hardly have had a better scenario and Fogg says he expects more of the same this year.
When the rules were originally drafted for the Parker-ENZED NZ V8s championship the architects purposefully kept mechanical specification simple and costs low. The result was a stable foundation on which a number of teams and individuals were able to make a long-term commitment - and the rest, in terms of colourful cars, capacity grids and close and exciting racing, is history.
Crucially, the cars look and sound like the Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores that compete in the world-renowned V8 Supercar series across the Tasman, yet cost less than a third of a typical Australian series budget to build and run.
Fogg and teammate Paul Pedersen have been part of the series since those early days and Fogg says an indicator of the standing the series now has is the number of Australian drivers now competing in it.
Last season established V8 Supercar driver Cameron McLean and up-and-comer Luke Youlden crossed the Tasman to compete in the 2005/06 Parker ENZED NZ V8s Championship and this season they are returning with another highly-rated driver with V8 Supercar experience, David Besnard.
It is Fogg, however, who heads into this weekend's meeting as the leading Ford driver and he says that Australian entries aside, the interesting thing for him will be to find out first hand the effect of the changes MotorSport NZ has mandated in the interests of parity between the Fords and the Holdens.
Though the two marques were evenly represented in the top six at the end of the 2005/06 season, concerns that the Falcons had an minor engine advantage has seen the Ford compression ratio reduced so that it is now the same as that of the Holden (10.0:1).
The Falcons also get a new, better pedal box to bring them into line with the Holdens, and both marques get a new, harder compound control tyre.
Fogg said this week that he would reserve his final judgement until he had completed a couple of meetings on the new tyres. His initial thoughts, however, are that the harder, less malleable tyre will exacerbate the flat-spotting problems associated with slowing down large, relatively heavy touring cars like the Falcons and Commodores.
There will be three races for the Parker ENZED NZ V8s at Pukekohe Park this weekend, with qualifying and the first 12 lap race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon then a 16 lap race on Sunday morning and a 20 lap final on the afternoon.
There is then a three-week break until the second round, at Christchurch's Powerbuilt International Raceway at Ruapuna Park over the November 25/26 weekend.
2006/07 Parker ENZED NZ V8s Championship
Rnd 1 Nov 3-5 2006 Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe
Rnd 2 Nov 24-26 2006 Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway at Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 3 Jan 18-21 2007 Taupo Motorsport Park Taupo
Rnd 4 Feb 16-18 2007 Manfeild Autocourse Feilding
Rnd 5 Mar 2-4 2007 Timaru International Motor Raceway (Levels) Timaru
Rnd 6 Mar 9-11 2007 Teretonga Park Raceway Invercargill
Rnd 7 April 20-22 2007 Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe (Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting)