Tri-Nations glory, championship honours and $80,000 are up for grabs in Porter Hire International Sprintcar Series.
Last season’s International Sprintcar test series was a head-to-head two team affair that was ultimately decided by a single fastest lap time after America and New Zealand tied on points at the end of the final race. Jamie Larsen’s quickest lap eventually secured victory for New Zealand.
The four-man test team of Jamie McDonald, Michael Pickens, Dean Brindle and Larsen battled Americans Kyle Hirst, Brad Loyet , NASCAR star Tony Stewart and overall series winner Shane Stewart over three nights of racing.
The most recent Australian Sprintcar team visit was 2014 with Robbie Farr and James McFadden taking series honours for Australia. Farr also racking up individual series honours and McFadden claiming a new single lap record at Western Springs.
This year’s Porter Hire International Sprintcar Series has 30 cars signed up and will be contested over four rounds.
Round one takes place this Saturday, 1st of December at Western Springs Speedway. Tuesday the 4th at Baypark Family Speedway, Mt. Maunganui and Thursday the 6th at Robertson Holden International Speedway, Palmerston North. The series concludes at Western Springs on Saturday 8th December.
The test race series will see two-man teams compete races in at all four rounds with teams from Australia, the USA and New Zealand. Team New Zealand is once again represented by Pickens and Larsen who have shown early-season form with Larsen accumulating several podiums and Pickens sneering opening night honours at The Springs.
Larsen, a former Minisprint and Sprintcar national champion along with teammate Pickens; current 2NZ in Sprintcars and 7 time national midget car champion have their work cut out for them in the test series but Pickens is realistic.
“These USA guys earn a living travelling all over the USA and race on different tracks every night so they will adapt super quick and same goes for the Aussie guys.” Pickens said.
“I think the advantage will be to these guys being professional but in saying that we have a home track advantage which we plan to make the most of and I can assure you we ain’t going for second!”
Returning to defend his overall series title is and seeking team race redemption is Indianapolis resident Shane Stewart.
Fresh off a 70+ race schedule following the World of Outlaws Series where he finished fifth driving for the Kyle Larson Open Wheel team he was one of only five drivers to qualify for every feature race on the gruelling tour.
His New Zealand tour teammate Kyle Hirst is also returning to drive for the Daltons Sprintcar Racing team after runner up finishes in two of last seasons over all Porter Hire series.
The Australian duo of Sydney based Troy Little and Victorian Jamie Veal are both on their first trips to New Zealand and are looking forward to competing hard and entertaining the crowds. Little has been running at the pointy end of the field recently.
“Last season we finished third in the Valvoline Raceway track championship, this season we are again very consistent setting fast time, winning our heat race and running 2nd in last weekend’s feature race.” he said.
“I think it will be tough racing especially with the local racers with their home track knowledge, but I’m keen to give the Kiwi guys a run for their money and put the best show on we can for the fans.”
Pickens and Larsen will not be the only ones to have a crack at the tourists. A range of local driver’s are eager to exchange steel and rubber with our overseas guests. Speedway veteran and current national champion Kerry Brocas is looking forward to it.
“I have been in a few test teams myself with the likes of Keith ‘Simbo’ Simpson and Allan ‘Wakeo’ Wakeling back in the day,” he said.
“To be wearing the 1NZ is a great honour and pride. Also just to have the opportunity to race with these guys, the Aussie’s and the ‘Yanks’. It’s great to race with them.”
All four rounds have provisional rain out dates the following day with Springs Speedway starting an hour earlier on Sundays.