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The Heart Of Racing Third In North Island Endurance Series Finale

The Heart of Racing has claimed third overall in its maiden North Island Endurance Series season with Spaniard Alex Riberas and drifter turned circuit racer Darren Kelly.

The Aston Martin Vantage GT3 drivers closed out their North Island campaign at Pukekohe Park with their second straight third place finish with International Motorsport.

The team were dominant in the final three-hour race of the series, taking pole qualifying position and leading most of the days proceedings.

Unfortunately they were deprived of the win after a technical issue meant they stopped on track and lost two laps.

“We had an issue with the steering wheel,” said Kelly.

“The wiring, for some reason, the connection wasn’t working inside so I couldn't select gears.

“Unfortunately, down the back straight, I got stuck in between gears and had to come to a stop.

“I managed to get it going again and headed back to the pit, but by that point we were already down a lap.”

Co-driver Alex Riberas was upbeat despite not capping off the season with a win that he thought they deserved.

“Overall, it’s a great weekend,” said the factory Aston Martin Racing driver.

“Ever since we arrived in New Zealand and we created this project with IMS, we have not had a pole position.

“This is our first pole position this weekend. We have not had a pace that was so dominant as we had today, even with our tyre sensor issue. I’m looking forward to the finals.”

The race and two-round series was won by John De Veth and Glenn Smith in their McLaren 650S GT3 while Sam Fillmore and Andrew Fawcett were second in the Audi R8 LMS GT3.

As the race began, the McLaren got the jump over Riberas into Turn 1. Riberas soon put the pressure on the Smith and took the lead back into Turn 1 just a few laps later.

Riberas stretched his legs on the field, but his lead soon vanished after a crash between a Subaru BRZ and Ford Mustang brought the Safety Car out.

Come Lap 24, Riberas resumed in the lead of the race. Behind him, the battle between Fawcett and Smith for the series was a thrilling one with the pair touching at the final turn.

Riberas controlled the opening leg of the race before handing the car over to Kelly on Lap 100.

Kelly looked to have control of the race until his car came to a halt on Lap 141.

An issue with the steering wheel meant the car wouldn’t select a gear and resulted in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 getting stuck between gears.

Fortunately, Kelly managed to get the car going again, but was three laps down by the time the car returned to the pit lane and got back on track.

In the end, De Veth and Smith went on to claim a dominant win over Fillmore and Fawcett who were one lap down at the chequered flag.

Riberas and Kelly were third and two laps of the leaders.

Despite falling short of their first win in the North Island, Riberas was happy with the performance heading into the New Zealand Endurance Championship finale.

“I think the team is doing a great job and that’s super uplifting and that makes us feel optimistic,” he said.

“The car felt really, really good in terms of balance. The car felt amazing.

“Anything can happen at Highlands, obviously, but we’re going to go there and we’re going to continue to support the Starship Foundation who have been amazing.

“We’re going to continue doing what The Heart of Racing does, which is fight for races and fight for victories, but on top of it raise money and raise awareness for the Starship Foundation.”

The Heart of Racing has already raised over $250,000 for the Starship Foundation, which is a leading provider in paediatric health care in New Zealand.

“It is an absolute privilege to have the Heart of Racing join the Starship family,” said Starship CEO Aisha Daji Punga, CEO of Starship Foundation.

“The compassion and care for New Zealand children radiates with every interaction. 

“As we wrap up the North island events we look forward to the success with the national campaign. Nga mihi from all your friends at Starship.”

The team now turns its focus to begin preparations for the national finale at Highlands Motorsport Park on November 7.

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