Father-son combo Deon and Rick Cooper will be continuing a tradition that extends over twenty years when they take to the grid in this year’s Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series.
The Taupo-based family team are heavily invested in the business side of SsangYong and this year will be piloting the one-of-a-kind Super Ute in the one-hour championship.
Powered by a small-block LS7 SuperTourer engine and sporting wings from a GT Mustang, the Super Ute resembles more of a NASCAR racing truck than the usual SsangYong Rhino Racing machine.
Transmission wise, a paddle-shift Holinger gearbox keeps the Ute rolling while SuperTourer brakes ensure it can stop in time for corners.
Deon, the younger of the Coopers, will be at the helm of the ute in the one-hour race before slotting alongside his father in a 2019 Ford Mustang GT4 for the three-hour (pictured below).
“I am really pleased to be finally having a drive after what seems like years of waiting,” [Deon] Cooper said.
“I was supposed to start the year driving in the six-hour production car race at Bathurst with my dad in an Australian team prepared Evo Lancer, but Covid put a stop to that.
“The Ute has had a change of exhaust to try to avoid cooking the driver while the mustang is still the same as it was raced previously.”
The Coopers have been partnering together in endurance races since the turn of the century.
The duo have contested several classic endurance races and paired with former North Island Endurance champion Mike Ashton in a Ford GT to win a 12 Hour race from Hampton Downs in 2010.
But they credit their biggest success as having stuck together since they first raced as a team.
“The biggest success for me is that I have done endurance racing since 2000 with my dad.
“We started at the Pukekohe 6 hour together and to have a dad who enjoys doing things like endurance events is special. There are not many father-son combos out there.
“We are also excited that my son Rick Jnr is now skidding around in an old SsangYong Racing Series Ute. We plan to race with him in the 24hour of lemons in October – so I will be a very lucky guy to have raced with my dad and son in the same race.”
The two-round North Island Endurance Series kicks off at Hampton Downs this Saturday with the final round from Pukekohe one month later on October 24.