OPINIONS
Tuesday, Aug 1 05:24pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Opinion: Is it time New Zealand got its own Porsche Carrera Cup?

New Zealanders are succeeding in sports car racing more than any other discipline globally, but the road to success internationally is fogy.

 

It’s the success of Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley in Europe and Asia, and more notably wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that many want to emulate.

 

So many drivers have to head overseas to race, but an affordable alternative should be available domestically.

 

New Zealand’s motor racing landscape has never been more prime for change than it is now. Introducing Porsche Carrera Cup New Zealand should be that change.

 

Sports car racing is seen by many as a place to forge a career, yet there is little in New Zealand which can give anyone a realistic chance at going pro.

 

Speak with any up and comer who wants to make a name for themselves and it’s easy enough to figure out that few can see a clear road to the top.

 

Recent CareVets scholarship recipients Ryan Yardley and Jack Milligan have had success in the Toyota 86 Championship, but beyond that where do they go?

 

A sports car drive is a clear goal for Yardley, Milligan and so many more, but domestically there isn’t a platform to prove themselves in machinery close to it.

 

So many take the ‘wait-and-see’ approach not really knowing where to go. I know it because I hear it often interviewing young drivers. The desire to go overseas is there, but the funding is not, something local and recognized should be achievable.

 

That alone should seriously concern any motor racing fan or official.

 

Milligan

Jack Milligan is one of many up-and-coming racers without a place to go domestically 

 

So much talent is left in no man’s land looking for a drive in a competitive series overseas, but one should be available on home soil to at least give them a taste.

 

There should be a clear route to success internationally and that should start here. Porsche Carrera Cup New Zealand should be part of that journey to reach Europe, Asia and America.

 

Yardley and Milligan aren’t alone. Pick any current Toyota 86, Formula First or Formula Ford racer and most will probably tell you either Supercars or sports car racing is their ultimate goal.

 

The path is there for those who want to get to Supercars, but not the World Endurance Championship, nor Blancpain, nor SUPER GT, not even Australian GT just across the ditch.

 

To reach Supercars there’s a clear tier system starting in New Zealand. Begin in karts before junior single seaters or mid-level tin-tops, NZ Touring Cars, Dunlop Super 2, and finally Supercars. Scott McLaughlin followed that route, Shane van Gisbergen’s was similar.

 

The same doesn’t exist for sports car racing, despite being more widespread globally. New Zealand motorsport is dropping the ball on supporting the next generation of sports car race winners.

 

What options are there after Toyota 86s or the Toyota Racing Series? Realistically, the only option is to go overseas. New Zealand needs Carrera Cup, or something of a similar ilk, to fill the void and give the next generation a chance at emulating their idols.

 

Andre Heimgartner, Jaxon Evans, Will Bamber and Chris van der Drift are all presently competing in Carrera Cup Australia or Carrera Cup Asia with success. Each have won this year and are all in the hunt for the respective titles.

 

Only a few years ago Will’s brother Earl was doing the same by winning in Carrera Cup Asia, now he’s a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.

 

Dan Gaunt

Dan Gaunt was one of the original Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge competitors in New Zealand, photo: Euan Cameron

 

New Zealand’s success and affinity with the Porsche badge should be enough to convince some that it’s a proven platform.

 

Jonny Reid’s success in Carrera Cup Australia led to a Supercars opportunity while Matt Halliday was a podium getter in Porsche’s highest division—Supercup.

 

Jono Lester reached Supercup too and was one of New Zealand’s youngest Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge racers when it was still around. He’s stuck with the badge and this year reached the heights of Japan’s Autobacs SUPER GT Series.

 

Craig Baird can’t be forgotten either. He’s arguably the world’s most successful Carrera Cup racer with five Australian titles and five New Zealand titles.

 

Need more proof?

 

Steven Richards and Fabian Coulthard were both winners of the Australian series in 2014 and 2006 respectively. They’re all exception drivers rated highly the world over, and all of them were Porsche drivers at some point.

 

Carrera Cup Australia doesn’t attract massive fanfare, though that’s not to say it wouldn’t here. The reality is it’s a driver series, but really that should be even more reason to have it.

 

One might argue that it makes little sense to have something similar here given it’s not successful with the crowds in Australia, but crowds in New Zealand are thin by comparison to Australia so it’s not a fair comparison.

 

The North Island has suffered in recent years with depleted crowd figures, but the South Island shows there’s still some passionate fans out there.

 

Porsche

Porsche 997s are a regular fixture in the Pirelli Porsche Racing Series

 

There is, however, a shining light in all of this. 

 

The Pirelli Porsche Racing Series for early generation Porsche 911s is perhaps as strong now than it has been in the last decade. A new wave of Cup cars to the South Island saw the largest attendance at Mike Pero Motorsport Park earlier this year.

 

New Zealand’s Premiere Motorsport promoters Speed Works Events have plans to grow the series. There’s every chance it could serve as a pseudo Carrera Cup, almost like Australia’s GT3 Cup Challenge, which operates in a similar vein.

 

Perhaps that’s not enough.

 

A fully-fledged and supported Carrera Cup is what the next generation needs. Though that might not be achievable in the current climate, a GT3 Cup Challenge would be a fitting second place.

 

It is clear Kiwis succeed with Porsche and the next generation needs a clearer road ahead of them.


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