A new V8 racing category is set to his New Zealand racetracks next autumn, when the Enzed V8 Ute Series begins at Ruapuna Park, near Christchurch.
The New Zealand series is based on the Ute racing category which hasn proven popular in Australia.
The Australian Utes raced at Manfeild a couple of seasons ago and that outing strimulated interest in a local championship.
Mike Lightfoot, the general manager of Enzed owner, Parker Hannifin (NZ) Ltd, says Ute racing is “about entertainment and giving the fans something to get excited about. And if it’s good for the fans, it's going to be good for us."
Modelled on the Australian chamopionship, the New Zealand Ute series will pit drivers of lightly-modified V8-powered Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore utes against each other at circuits throughout New Zealand.
Like the Australian series the New Zealand one is owned and will be promoted by an independent company made up of a group of foundation shareholder/drivers - another factor which appealed to Lightfoot and Parker Hannifin’s marketing services manager Simon McLeay.
NZV8 Ute Racing Ltd’s director are directors Ash Cairns and Graham Beirne, the category manager is Jamie Kett and TV package partner is Gordon Legge.
Cairns and Beirne will be 'working directors' who will race their own utes in the six-round series Kett and Legge have organised.
Cairns says response to the series so far has been “100 per cent positive.”
"We’re finding that the main appealing factors are that we’re well organised, we’re focused on providing an entertainment package, and the performance of the utes is strictly monitored.
“We’ll follow the Australian idea of having portable wheel dynamometers at all meetings to measure engine output. Any tricky stuff and you go straight to the back of the field."
Cairns says that people find it easy to relate to the Ford and Holden utes around which the series is based.
"The other thing that appeals to drivers and spectators alike is the way the Utes race. They’re big and noisy and move around a lot on the track. They have heaps of power coming off the corners and huge brakes. If you want to you can drive them sideways around the track.”
He says the light trucks can be driven like a rally car that weighs 1800kg.
Entry to the series is by franchise agreement with room for 32 drivers, 16 driving Ford Falcon XR8s, 16 Holden SS V8s.
To ensure parity the vehicles will be delivered race-prepared by Australian specialists Les Small (the Fords) and James Brock (the Holdens).
The six-round series covers both Islands, with the first round at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway in March and the final at Feilding's Manfeild in June.