The Marlborough Express
North goes west to tackle Aussies
Eastern States Speedway driver Patrick "Paddy" North has a big mission on his hands when he travels to Australia later this week with the New Zealand Super Saloon Car team to contest the inaugural Valvoline Trans-Tasman Challenge in Victoria.

The six-meeting series runs over two weekends, beginning at Mildura on Friday, October 22, with the final at Bacchus Marsh on Sunday, October 31.

The Kiwi Super Saloons take on a team of Australian Late Models, a class not seen on New Zealand tracks but growing in popularity across the ditch.

Technically, the New Zealand cars would have a slight edge over the Australian ones, but North said that would be offset by the local drivers' familiarity with their home track surfaces and conditions, which should put the teams on an even par.

North said the Kiwis would be conceding horsepower against the late model cars, but added: "We are representing our country against Australia.

"Kiwi pride and a chance to beat the buggers in their own backyard will bring out the best in our guys.

"It's a huge honour and a chance of a lifetime to be invited to be part of the Kiwi team, and at day's end I don't care what I'm racing against if I'm racing in Kiwi colours representing New Zealand."

The series will see the debut of the new Paddy North Racing LRC Monaro, a car custom-built for North by Lovelady Race Cars to replace his familiar red Monaro, which has been raced throughout New Zealand over the past six years.

With only a handful of laps on a slick, dusty track at Eastern States in Renwick to bed components in and ensure everything was working before shipping the car to Australia, North was very impressed with the car's handling and performance.

He is assisted by his crew of Richie Chapman and Kevin Newton.

North will be hoping there is less drama for his car once he starts racing than there was getting it shipped to Australia.

A purpose-built container was held up for a week.

The cars were to be put in special containers, then trucked to Auckland for shipping alongside the North Island cars.

However, the ship carrying their container down from Auckland developed steering problems and ran aground, arriving in Lyttelton under tow a week late. They finally got the cars and spares loaded with only a few hours to spare for the return trip to Auckland and then on to Australia.

Keep up with Paddy North's racing exploits by visiting paddynorth.co.nz, and for more on the Valvoline series, visit supers.co.nz.

- The Marlborough Express
13 October 2010