Matt Gibson is hoping his ‘hometown’ advantage will give him the best welcome party to the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Championship next month when he gets behind the wheel of a CRE Ford Mustang for this year’s One Hour series.
Gibson will partner with long-time friend Jono Lester in a Corliss Race Engineering and Ford New Zealand-presented Mustang in his debut NIERDC drive.
The expat Wanganui raised-turned-Aucklander was originally slated to head to Asia and contest the popular TAV8 series which races at some of the top circuits in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The series has seen a handful of high-profile drivers express their feelings of the cars such as Steve Owen, Craig Baird and David Reynolds.
“I was originally headed to Thailand to race, but with an opportunity back home now becoming possible it ticked more boxes for us,” Gibson told Velocity News.
“From the test in the CRE Camaro I decided I needed to try and be in the running to get myself forward for a drive with Corliss Race Engineering.
“I spoke to CRE and as a team we decided to put the plan forward to run in the endurance series and I was nominated as the driver for the team’s Mustang.”
An ace up his sleeve, Gibson has turned countless of laps around the 2.7km Hampton Downs National circuit which the series will be running its opening round in September, with his day job being track manager of the Motorsport Park.
It will also mark a welcome return to competitive racing for Gibson who has achieved national success in the SsangYong Utes, Suzuki Swift and NZV8 Ute series’ as well as a former champion of the Mazda Pro 7 championship.
“The series is going to be good for me as a racer,” he added. “I expect Jono [Lester] to be a bit faster than me but as teammates we can overlay data and discuss feedback together.
“And as the professional driver for Hampton Downs I hope to have a little bit of an advantage there but I am also really looking forward to having a crack at Pukekohe and charging at 300km/hr down the full back straight.
“CRE is also a really professional outfit and a special team. The Ford New Zealand deal is awesome for NZ motorsport which is kind of in a hole at the moment, but this partnership should hopefully bring back some life.”
Despite the coronavirus-induced setbacks, organisers of the North Island Endurance Championship are confident entry numbers will be some of the highest it has seen in many seasons. A catalyst for the increase in driver interest being a revamp of the sporting and technical regulations that have opened up the eligibility of the series.
Racing alongside the twin Mustang team will be a healthy mix of GT3 machinery, NZ SuperTourers and a handful of nimble TCRs.
“The Corliss’ race cars are really cool. Paddle shift, air jacks, a suspension and tyre package that is functional and they give up plenty of noise, so they are a unique car to drive and cool to race.
“I have never entered an endurance race like this before, barring some One Hour SsangYong races, so I am really looking forward to the opportunity.
“And I know if I don’t take it now I will look back and regret not doing it so I am excited to give this unique opportunity a good crack.”
Gibson is projected to have his first competitive race in the car at the Speedworks Rush Hour event from Hampton Downs on September 5 before the opening NIERDC round from the Waikato venue a fortnight later.