Out of the garage and on to the track

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 11 Nov 2017 | Latest News
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Wanaka’s Andy Giles and his father Ted have installed the fifth engine in 20 years in this Toyota AE86 and it will be running in the Highlands 501 one-hour race on Sunday. PHOTO: EUAN CAMERON

Andy Giles and his dad Ted have had the ultimate father/son project over the past 20 years.

Giles' Toyota AE86 has undergone a series of makeovers and its fifth reincarnation was finished earlier this year, ready to take on the three South Island Endurance Series' one-hour races. After about three years of many weekend and after-work hours in Wanaka engineer Barry Morgan's garage, excitement was high as Giles (38) and his support crew headed south to the first round in Invercargill.

Disappointment was an understatement after a broken gearbox in practice ended his debut before it even began. Teething problems were to become a recurring theme over the next two rounds where clutch issues and oil leaks prevented him from completing a full hour of racing.

‘‘We are pretty much a couple of battlers who have been punished all season with gremlins,'' Giles said.

A few issues were to be expected considering the amount of changes he and Ted have made to the car. The latest engine is a two-lite turbo Toyota Beams 3sge+T, which pumps out 420-450hp depending on how much boost Giles dials in.

Between their occupations as a builder (son) and electrician (dad), the pair ‘‘try to do everything themselves'', Giles said.

They have installed a varied collection of parts, which included a ‘‘trick rear end'' made up from the back of a modified Hilux, with Race Products full floater axles and a Watts Link suspension set up. The front suspension is from a S15 Silvia with K-Sport shocks and the brakes are Brembo from a GTR Skyline.

The good news is that when it is going, the Toyota has been ‘‘showing good speed from the start,'' so now that team Giles are hopefully on top of the bedding-in issues, it should have a strong run in the one-hour endurance race at Highlands Motorsport Park tomorrow. While the 501 headline race might feature predominantly international drivers from the Australian GT series, driving glamorous supercars, the one-hour race will showcase plenty of national talent battling it out.

There is a gang of Porsche GT3 cars that are likely to be front-runners, including the 991 driven by top Christchurch duo Danny Whiting and Andy Knight. On a local front, Dunedin brothers Martin and Allan Dippie are lining up against each other in a 991 GT3 RS and a 997 GT3 respectively. Another family going head to head are the Mackersys, with Queenstown- based father Ron driving a VW Jetta Tdi and his son Tim, of Dunedin, in a VW Golf Gti.

There are plenty of Otago drivers to cheer on throughout the field, on board everything from Toyota Starlets to a Chev Corvette C6R.

The one-hour race begins at 9.20am tomorrow. Then after a 25-minute public grid walk at 11.50am the 501km feature race begins at 12.40pm following the traditional Le Mans start, in which one of the team's drivers runs to meet the other driver waiting in the car on the track.

This will be the last time the Australian GT cars make the annual trip to race in Cromwell and track owner Tony Quinn said ‘‘it does feel like the end of an era and it is for the Australian GTs at Highlands but we've proven we can run big events successfully''.

‘‘We're close to confirming some big news for next year's marquee event at Highlands. It will be different but it will be good. We've got almost 50 local cars entered in the one-hour race at Highlands this weekend and the drivers get the chance to race in front of family and friends and that's pretty special.''

Other race categories competing over the weekend include Pro 7, Euromarque and the Radical race cars.