Searching for success

By David Thomson on Mon, 16 Oct 2017

Could this be the weekend when we finally taste international motorsport championship success in 2017, along, perhaps, with some local success on the national championship stage?

Internationally, this weekend sees Japan host round seven of the FIA World Endurance Racing Championship. Even though there are still two rounds to run after Japan, New Zealand's Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley - along with their German driving partner Timo Bernhard - already hold such a strong series lead they could clinch the title tomorrow.

Bamber, Hartley and Bernhard have earned their commanding championship position through a four-race winning streak that started when they triumphed at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race back in June. Since Le Mans, they have also won six-hour races around Germany's famed Nurburgring course, as well as in Mexico and the United States. Fuji is another six-hour affair.

While this Kiwi-dominated line-up is firm favourite for theendurance crown, a local (by which I mean an Otago) triumph on the national championship stage is a longer shot. 

Still, we have Rhys Gardner and Emma Gilmour lining up for today's penultimate round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, the Waitomo Rally. Either is capable of winning at Waitomo if things go their way, and Gardner - currently fourth in the championship - remains firmly in contention for the national title.

Despite being a single-day event, the Waitomo Rally packs in more than 200km of special stage racing. Several very long stages add to the endurance character, which is not usual in a one-day rally. Gilmour is one of a minority of the leading drivers whose experience of these long stages stretches back a decade, to the days when they were part of Rally New Zealand. Gardner, by contrast, will be having his first taste of the Waitomo event and its uniquely demanding roads.

Changing tack completely, I was amused this week to receive an email from Lamborghini, looking back at its first SUV, the LM002, which was produced in small quantities from 1986 to 1993. These days an increasing number of luxury and sports marques are adding SUVs to their ranges, and the Lamborghini email was a timely reminder that the Italian supercarmaker was well ahead of the game in venturing down this path.

Perhaps that should come as no surprise given that before producing its first supercar in the 1960s, Lamborghini was best known as a maker of agricultural equipment, including tractors.

David Thomson