The future of New Zealand’s only team in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Super Black Racing, is bright thanks to a close friend of the team.
Super Black Racing has today confirmed that (subject to approval from Supercars Australia) its Racing Entitlement Contract will be purchased by Rusty French, a well-known motorsport aficionado and successful businessman.
French was a long-time friend of Super Black Racing owner, the late Tony Lentino, and would like to continue contribute to keep the vision of the New Zealander who established the team in 2014.
Lentino, himself a successful businessman, passed away recently after a long battle with cancer. He met French 30 years ago when helping him with a computer purchase in Melbourne.
They remained friends with French instrumental in guiding Lentino in the establishment of Super Black Racing and have remained in close contact since the teams inception.
“I’ve had a close link with Super Black Racing and admired what Tony had done and wanted to achieve with this team,” French said.
“This was Tony’s dream and I made a promise to help him along the way”. “This is a great opportunity for more New Zealand companies to reach out and be part of a great team and continue the vision”.
French said this was his personal investment, and not Prodrive Racing’s, and Super Black Racing would continue as a New Zealand based team.
Super Black Racing Manager Greg Hahn, who will continue in his role, said the change of ownership was the best way to realise Lentino’s legacy.
“This decision comes with the full support of Emily Lentino and the Board of Trustees, and is an exciting development for the team,” Hahn said. “In the discussions so far, Rusty will help to develop a team into a championship competitive operation.”
Hahn said they still have a lot of work to do for planning next years partnerships and suppliers but the immediate focus is to continue the teams improving form, currently 18th in the Supercars Championship, with the two remaining enduro events at Bathurst and Gold Coast, before returning for the sole New Zealand stop at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe in November and the finale in Sydney.
Next week the Super Black Racing team will make its way to the Mount Panorama once again with two Kiwi drivers who are fired up and ready to go. This will be Super Black’s third year at the Bathurst 1000 and Team Manager Greg Hahn says “despite a few issues we’ve been working through in the background we are confident of pushing for solid result”. “We took away a lot from Sandown and won’t be making some of the silly mistakes we made there again”. “We have struggled with car set-up for most of the year and despite a good run at QR, one sunny day doesn’t make a summer”. “We have to play to win and we’ll put a game plan together that gives us our best chance of a result”. Chris Pither now has some experience at Bathurst and is a confident of his drive, but for co-driver Richie Stanaway it will be the first time he takes on the mountain. Its always been a dream of mine and I grew up with Bathurst”. “Ive raced a lot enduros this year and it seems a little crazy but Bathurst will be one of the shortest I do this year” says Richie. Bathurst is one of the greatest races in the world and when you look through the results list from last year and see the number of DNF’s you get a true indication to how daunting it can be.
Driving in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship has always been a dream of Kiwi driver Richie Stanaway. His dream will become a reality as one of nine New Zealand drivers to compete in the first of the two-driver endurance series at the Wilson Security Sandown 500 on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne this weekend. The 24-year-old, who has forged a promising career in single seater and endurance sports car racing in Europe, is the co-driver for the sole New Zealand Supercars entry, alongside Chris Pither in the Super Black Racing Ford.
Five New Zealanders are main drivers in this year’s championship with Shane van Gisbergen, currently second on the points table, Scott McLaughlin, in fifth, Fabian Coulthard, Pither and Andre Heimgartner. Four Kiwis will be co-drivers for the Pirtek Enduro Cup series comprising Stanaway, four-time Bathurst winner Steven Richards, the highly experienced Craig Baird and European-based Chris van der Drift.
Stanaway has focused on the FIA World Endurance Championship racing for the last two years in particular with the Aston Martin team, as he chased his Formula 1 dreams in Europe. However, the 24-year old has headed back home to land a seat with Super Black Racing for the upcoming Enduro Cup series.
This weekend will be Stanaway’s first time racing in Supercars. “I only ever dreamed of doing two things growing up. I wanted to race Formula 1 or Supercars. I’ve never followed closely any other form of motorsport. Now that my single-seater dreams seem to be over after a lot of years, I am so fortunate to be offered the chance to drive in Supercars,” Stanaway said.
Stanaway, who raced successfully in both GP3 and GP2 championships, has realised his aspirations of racing in Formula 1 are over, and therefore he wanted to return to this side of the world as his base.“I have always wanted to get involved in Supercars, so it was the perfect opportunity when Super Black Racing approached me to co-drive. I get to come home to New Zealand to race in Supercars and for a New Zealand team.”
Stanaway feels he has a real advantage when it comes to endurance racing. He usually drives in races from six and 24 hours duration. While a lot of the Supercar drivers look to the upcoming enduro rounds as their longest, it will actually be the shortest races he does this year.
The former Tauranga driver is looking forward to co-driving with Chris Pither and he’s enjoying being part of the Super Black Racing team.“I like the team a lot and we are part of a very professional Prodrive organisation. Chris is a really good driver and we do not have much difference in size, so we seem very compatible.”
Stanaway knows he has a few things to get his head around before the Sandown 500 this weekend. The cars are heavier than he is used to and he said that while the distance and time won’t be an issue for him, it’s the category and circuits that he must figure out.
“The difference between good and great drivers in V8 Supercars is measured by extremely small margins and it is those margins that I need to learn. There’s a lot of weight of performance on co-drivers at Sandown, with our own qualifying and our own race that goes towards the overall start positions. It is an important role.”
While Sandown is the main focus this weekend, Stanaway can’t help but think about the Supercheap Autos Bathurst 1000 in three weeks.“I grew up as a kid watching Bathurst on television and that’s how I fell in love with motorsport. I can’t quite believe that I will be racing there. Somehow it does not feel real.”
There are three practice sessions on Friday, practice, qualifying and two qualifying races on Saturday which will sort grid positions for Sunday’s 500km race.
The Pirtek Enduro Cup comprises the Wilson Security Sandown 500, the Supercheap Autos Bathurst 1000 and the Castrol Gold Coast 600. The Supercars then heads across the Tasman for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe Park Raceway for the penultimate stop in the Championship,
ITM Auckland SuperSprint 4-6 November: Tickets are on sale from as little as $29. Three-day trackside is priced from $100 with children aged 12 and under free trackside admission with a paying adult. Fanstands are from just $65 for a single day or $110 for three days and Platinum Reserved Grandstands with Paddock Pass priced at $300.