Fam­ily first in three-hour Lev­els en­durance race

The Timaru Herald - - SPORT - BRAY­DEN LIND­SAY

His­tory is set to be cre­ated Lev­els Race­way this week­end.

Rod, Andy and Hunter McEl­rea will be the first trio of fam­ily mem­bers to com­pete as a team as they race in the South Is­land En­durance Se­ries fi­nale at the Ti­maru In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Race­way Lev­els.

Andy com­peted against his son Hunter, 17, at Lev­els in Oc­to­ber 2015 as part of the South Is­land For­mula Ford Se­ries.

His fa­ther Rod at­tended the meet but didn’t com­pete, how­ever fast for­ward vir­tu­ally two years and this time he will be out on the track with Andy and Hunter.

They are com­pet­ing in a Toy­ota TR86, a car which should do okay but lacks real grunt com­pared to their com­peti­tors.

‘‘It’s a very spe­cial week­end for us be­cause we’ve never driven to­gether be­fore at any event, so it’s go­ing to be an awe­some day.

‘‘We be­lieve we’re the first to do it, not even Jim and Steve Richards man­aged it.’’

Andy, 50, who won the 1991 For­mula Ford cham­pi­onship and the 1996 TranzAm champs be­fore giv­ing rac­ing away, said it would be good to be back be­hind the wheel.

‘‘If we can be com­pet­i­tive in our class then we will be happy. We’re not ex­pect­ing to win it as we’re up against some pretty pow­er­ful cars and ours isn’t as pos­si­ble as a num­ber of them but if we can do well in our class that would be good.’’

Rod won the New Zealand Beach Rac­ing cham­pi­onships, in Nel­son, in 1971 and the OSCA cham­pi­onships in 1983, while Hunter fin­ished fourth in the 2017 Aus­tralian For­mula Ford cham­pi­onships by win­ning a cou­ple of races, show­ing the abil­ity to race well runs in the fam­ily.

Andy said they at­tempted to race to­gether sooner but it hadn’t worked out for a num­ber of rea­sons. ‘‘I had a clash and then some­thing else came up, how­ever we heard about this event and pin- at pointed it as the per­fect time to do it.

‘‘We’ve al­ways wanted to com­pete to­gether in a race, so to do it is go­ing to be very spe­cial.’’

Com­pet­ing to­gether for the first time at Lev­els will be hugely sat­is­fy­ing for the trio.

‘‘It was dad’s home track for rac­ing, it is my favourite track, I know it re­ally well hav­ing grown up in Ash­bur­ton and used it as my home track.

‘‘I won the TranzAm here be­fore shift­ing to the United States, and Hunter had one of his first ma­jor races here, so there’s plenty of fam­ily ties with the track.’’

Andy and Hunter now re­side in Aus­tralia where the for­mer runs McEl­rea Rac­ing which fin­ished the Bathurst 12 hour sec­ond over­all and won the Pro Am and is the cur­rent Porsche Car­rera Cup cham­pi­ons.

Rac­ing cars runs in the blood and a day of this sig­nif­i­cance had been on the cards for some­time.

Rod, 75, is likely to race for around 40-50 min­utes be­fore Andy and Hunter do the rest of the driv­ing.

‘‘I’ll start then dad will go and then Hunter will bring it home,’’ Andy said. ‘‘We’d love to have the chance to do this again if dad is still driv­ing.’’

Fol­low­ing this race, Hunter is off for a test run at In­di­anapo­lis in Amer­ica.

‘‘The lit­tle sod is do­ing re­ally well with his rac­ing since tak­ing a step up from cart­ing a cou­ple of years ago.’’

Rod was ex­cited at com­pet­ing again af­ter 10 years.

‘‘My mum was a huge rac­ing fan and I had a dream one night that we could do that and de­cided then that it would hap­pen for her. Do­ing it for her has been the driv­ing fac­tor re­ally.’’

Asked as to who would bring the pace, Hunter wasn’t afraid to sug­gest him­self. ‘‘I should be go­ing the fastest, if I’m not then I’d be pretty wor­ried. It’s some­thing pretty spe­cial and I’ll re­mem­ber it for the rest of my life.’’

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