Alex Riberas believes his team’s support of Starship Foundation this North Island endurance season surpasses the jubilation of winning the three-hour title.
Riberas and Darren Kelly drove the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to two race wins this year, clinching the title in the final round on pole position countback.
The title makes up for their cruel defeat in the 2020 season and means the pair have now won the North, South and national three-hour championships.
However, the Heart of Racing’s primary goal is raising money for children’s hospitals around the world.
When team owner Gabe Newell opted to remain in New Zealand during the Covid-19 outbreak last year, he set up an endurance team with good friend Riberas and enlisted Kiwi drift ace Kelly.
Newell partnered with the Starship Foundation, and his race team have already raised well over $250,000 for New Zealand children in need.
Several children were present at Pukekohe Park over the weekend for the North Island series finale, cheering on Riberas and Kelly, who surged to a three-lap win.
Riberas says seeing the joy his team brings to Kiwi children is what makes racing in New Zealand worthwhile.
“We came here knowing we could finally conquer the trifecta, the three championships,” Riberas said over the weekend.
“But the great thing is, when you have 800 people right there with the Starship kids, there is much less pressure because even if we don’t win the championship, we are still winning.
“We are still helping kids, and that is, in my opinion, what winning is about.
“If you put on top of it the championship victory, it is fantastic, phenomenal.”
A champion drifter, Kelly made his circuit racing debut with The Heart of Racing last year.
Over the weekend, Kelly earned his first pole position with a sublime lap in a wet qualifying session.
He then battled through testing conditions on Sunday with a mega first stint to establish an early lead, which Riberas padded once he got in the car for the run home.
“It has been a massive challenge this weekend,” Kelly said.
“The weather conditions were extremely difficult to adapt to, [with] this place having so much water build up and the track just not having the grip.
“It made for a good drift car today, that is for sure.
“But stoked to hand it over to Alex and get the win.”
Riberas and Kelly will contest this year’s South Island Endurance Series, which kicks off at Ruapuna in September.
Main Image: Matt Smith