Twenty three year old Chris Hanley - multiple race winner and champion in the 2013 UDC V8 Ute series - will make his BNT V8 SuperTourer debut for Garry Pedersen's PSR West racing squad at the 2014 season's second round at the Manfeild New Zealand GP meeting this weekend.
Hanley will also drive the team's Ford Falcon V8ST in all of the remaining rounds of the SuperTourer series – now an officially sanctioned Motorsport New Zealand championship.
It will be the first time in 25 years of racing that Pedersen's team have not run a family member as the lead driver in their car, but the team owners are confident not only in Hanley's ability to push himself and the car to the limits, but to deliver good results once he has settled in to the 550bhp machine.
"It was a big decision for us to look for the next generation of up and coming talent," he explained. "Kirk 'The Captain' Stoneman pointed us in Chris's direction after his stellar season in the utes in 2013. We tested him at Taupo last week and he pushed the car really, really hard - surviving a big 170kph moment before going quicker in every session after that.
"Chris is naturally very quick, and wants to absorb every scrap of information about the car and the set-up in order to go faster. People often forget he was looking odds on for a big result in the ute series in his first year but broke his back in a non-racing accident that ruined his season. That he came back the following year to win five races and finish runner up in the championship speaks volumes. Racing is in his blood and that's exactly the sort of driver we want in our car, and the sort of gutsy racer that as fans we all love to watch out on track."
Hanley - also a former race and round winner in the Pro 7 Mazda series - won his very first race in the UDC V8 Ute series when he debuted in the category in 2010, but has his feet firmly on the ground for his first V8 SuperTourer appearance.
"The SuperTourer is an incredible machine and very different to what I have raced in previously. It's going to be tough but the objective remains the same - to be faster than everyone else and to win races but I am completely realistic that this will not happen straight away as there is a lot of talented drivers in the field, some of which were heroes of mine growing up. It's been a long road to get this far, but the next chapter starts here and now at Manfeild and I am determined to make the most of a fantastic opportunity. I will give 100% and I know the team will too."
The PSR West Team and Hanley's management are remaining tight-lipped about a potential partner to line up with the young racer in the enduro half of the SuperTourer season, but will be talking to drivers from V8 Supercars, single seaters and also some local talent.
The car will carry both a new and existing line up of sponsors, which will include The Sound FM, Placemakers Cook Street, Milwaukee, PIC Insurance, AC Diggers, The Mad Butcher, Ferndale Farms, Puke Coal, Fuchs, Redline Signwriters, BOC, Walthall Ward Chartered Accountants, Chiropractic First and Webdesign.
Born: 26th July 1990
2008-9 Mazda Rx7 Pro7 Plus Championship
2nd overall (first season)
Rookie of the Year
Team of the Year
2009-10 Mazda Rx7 Pro7 Plus Championship
6 race wins
7 fastest laps
4 pole positions
One new class lap record
2010-11 UDC V8 Ute Championship
Wins first race of the season in Holden VE V8 Ute (something never achieved before or since by a rookie)
Leads Rookie of the Year standings for the first three meetings, but ends season prematurely after non-racing back injury. Such was his points advantage that it was another four races before he would relinquish his lead in the Rookie of the Year.
2011-12 UDC V8 Ute Championship
5 race wins
4 fastest laps
1 pole position
2013 UDC V8 Ute Championship
13 race wins
5 pole positions
5 round wins
22 podium places
1 lap record