The first all-New Zealand team to take on the premier race at Bathurst – the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest 12 hour endurance motorsport event – will have their million dollar Ferrari on route to Australia by the end of the week.
The Trass Family Motorsport team completed their final shakedown in the Ferrari 458 Italia at Hampton Downs earlier this month and are now in the final stages of workshop preparation before shipping out this Friday. The campaign represents the first all-Kiwi to complete in A Class for outright honours. The team will be up against the factory giants from all over the world at Mt Panorama between February 6th – 8th. Bathurst is regarded as one of the toughest endurance circuits in the world.
The team’s lead driver is 25-year-old Jono Lester, who is brimming with confidence off the back of two successful seasons of GT3 racing in Japan. He will receive crucial support from multiple NZV8 and NZ SuperTourer champion John McIntyre who is the only team member with significant Bathurst experience from many years of competing in the V8 Supercar endurance races. Rounding out the team is impressive Highlands 101 debutant Graeme Smyth, who at 23 is better known for his Championship wins in KZ2 shifter karts, but in a whirlwind few months has been given the huge Bathurst opportunity as a GT3 Development driver.
Jono Lester is confident the team is well prepared and focused: “I’m pumped for the challenge. Nerves are naturally a part of the anticipation, but I am confident in the car under me, the team behind me and the drivers alongside me,” he says. “We are getting plenty of laps in around Bathurst on iRacing (a simulator programme), in addition to tips from John, who has raced at Bathurst many times. We have also added another couple of personnel to the crew who will further strengthen our package and speed up any repairs in the event of trouble. The support includes the vast experience and expertise of defending Bathurst 12 hours winners Maranello Motorsport.”
The team’s preparation has become a truly family affair. Three generations of TFM Team Principal Gerald Trass’ family, alongside three generations of Jono Lester’s, have been actively supporting the team. Gerald Trass is relishing seeing his vision come to light. Trass has only been involved in motorsport for six months and is excited about the potential of his young team. “We are taking on a bold challenge against our Aussie rivals and the rest of the world. It’s an honour for TFM to represent New Zealand at Bathurst and I have every faith in our team and drivers to do the job and bring home a top result.”
The team has also been working off the track to make sure they are in peak physical condition to take on the gruelling 6.2km circuit. Lester, in particular, is combining his race preparation with training for his fourth year tackling the 33km North Shore Coastal Challenge run in early March.
The team is aiming for a top ten finish in the 55-strong field which will feature teams from Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Germany and of course New Zealand. Ferrari enjoys the most outright representation with seven cars followed by Audi (six), Mercedes-Benz (five), Bentley (three), Aston Martin (three), Lamborghini (two), Porsche (two), Nissan (one) and McLaren (one).