8th November 2001
For the first time ever the Shell V8 Series goes offshore this weekend, when the circus goes to New Zealand.
A few years ago, 1996 in fact, there were a couple of V8 Supercar races in New Zealand but they were not part of the National Championship.
This weekend at Pukehoe the boys will be competing in 3 races, a look race on the Saturday and 2 by 150km races on the Sunday, complete with pit stops in the longer races.
The New Zealand race fans are some of the most vocal in the world.
Last time we raced there I was stunned by their enthusiasm, so I expect this weekend will be huge for New Zealand Motorsport.
The track itself is steeped in history and has hosted some fantastic names over the years. The likes of Clark Stewart and Brabham battled out the Tasman Series in the old days, but more recently the local scene over there has fallen into decline.
In '96 HRT were the victors with Greg Murphy winning the day and myself and Dick Johnson in the Shell cars the best of the rest.
This time around I'm sure it will be HRT to the fore and lets not forget that the K-MART Team is HRT, so effectively they have 4 cars at the front.
I have been fairly disappointed in the Fords performance of late, being a Ford man of course, but Puke, as the locals call it could suit the strong mid range torque of the Ford engines, because there is a long back straight with a slow corner leading onto it and a slow corner leading off it.
After the improvements in the CAT car before Bathurst I expect a very strong showing from young Simon Wills, who grew up racing on the Pukehoe track.
Likewise, Marcos Ambrose who's qualifying performances have been outstanding this year, less so his race results, mostly through no fault of his own but through team blunders.
As you know there are a number of Kiwis in the Aussie series, so now we really do have an international flavour.
Unfortunately for me I will be watching the action on Network Ten's excellent coverage.
Since my departure from the Briggs team I have been working very hard on putting a deal together to continue racing a V8 Falcon, at least for a couple more years.
Whilst no deal is ever done in Motorsport until it is legally signed, and even then they are dubious, I am very close to having everything sorted out for next year
Lots of people have asked me why I won't race a Holden but that is totally out of the question.
I have such strong links with Ford and Tickford and such strong loyal support from the Ford followers of V8 racing that it would be crazy to switch camps at this time of my career.
The response I have had via emails from literally thousands of Ford fans is very touching and quite a humbling experience, likewise from the CAT people throughout the country, many who have become friends.
I love racing as much now as I did when I started racing in Tassie as a 17 year old, it has been my life and always will be, so while I won't be racing in New Zealand, I will be back.