What the hell are they? That was our first thought as we spied not one, but two out-of-this-world-looking machines at Pukekohe Park Raceway recently.
It turns out that what we were looking at was a pair of New Zealand-designed, Crawford Race Cars–built Daytona Prototypes — two of just 15 ever made. Hailing from Denver, North Carolina, USA, the cars are pretty much as serious as a race car with doors can get, and we knew as soon as we saw them that we had to find out more.
It turns out that both vehicles are part of a team based in Palmerston North, the black ‘Pontiac’ being owned and driven by Kerry Halligan, and the white ‘Porsche’ belonging to Glenn ‘Smithy’ Smith. With the cars being essentially the same thing, albeit with radically different engine combos in them, it makes sense that both vehicles share crew members, the chief mechanic, who’s full time for the team, being Maurice Ebbett.
Following the cars into their individual pit areas, it’s soon apparent just how seriously these guys take their racing, and more so just how serious these cars are, sharing nothing at all in common with a road car. Yes, that body is completely carbon fibre!
While the team works as one, each car has dedicated crew; here’s one of the guys checking tyre temperatures just after the cars are dragged into the pits. They didn’t just check the tyres in one place, but across the inside edge, outside edge, and centre, to see which part of the tyre is working hardest.
With the front nose cone unclipped from Kerry’s car, you soon get more of an insight into how race bred the cars are. While there was far too much going on for simpletons like ourselves to understand, we soon noticed the horizontally opposed coilover shocks, which run off a bell-crank system.
Ok, so maybe they do share something with road cars, ABS brakes!
Speaking of brakes, check out the size of the suckers! We can only image how quickly they’d haul up the cars, as Kerry mentioned his only weighs 946kg before he slides into it.
It wasn’t until the crew had the backs off each car that we saw what makes them different to each other, and that’s radically different engine combos. Kerry’s being a naturally aspirated LS-based combo, although obviously far removed from the LS in your average Commodore!
Smithy’s car is a bit quicker around the track, and when we spied the twin-turbo Porsche Boxster engine in his car, it made sense why. Perhaps that’s why Kerry mentioned he has plans to add a pair of turbos to his in the future!
There’s a serious amount of electronics in the cars, some of which are to help operate the air-shifted transaxle gearboxes, others all associated with the MoTeC computers that both the cars run. This distribution box on the trans gives a bit of an insight into it, but it’s not until you see the interior that you realize just how advanced and complex the cars are.
With so much going on in front of the driver, you’d think they wouldn't know where to look. But to ensure they only have to worry about driving, all of the electronics feed back to laptops in the pit area, and the crew watch the diagnostics and report back to the driver, instead of the other way around.
Being such small cockpits, with the motor close behind, the cabins of the cars are warm, but that’s why they both run gold heat proofing, and it’s not just gold by colour — it’s made from actual gold leaf!
While that’s impressive on its own, what’s more impressive is the team's pair of transporters. How cool do they look!
But back to the cars; on the track they’re amazing to watch, even against a full field of fellow GT1 competitors, which in their own right are ridiculously cool to watch, the Crawford cars still stand out, both in terms of looks and performance.
Being that this was just the second event Kerry had driven his car at, and the first time he’d had it around Pukekohe, he was still learning the ropes, but that didn't stop him from busting out lap times just over the one-minute mark. Don’t forget that’s with Pukekohe’s new chicane on the back straight!
While the lightweight aspect and high horsepower have a big part to play in that mind-blowing performance, the cars have some serious aerodynamics going on too. If the rear wings look familiar, that’ll be because they’re plucked directly off the Formula One production line!
While we couldn't be there over the weekend, photographer Robbie Assink captured a moment that didn’t go so well for Smithy.
In Robbie’s words, “I got these pics in race three, after a handicap start. They had already had a safety car which allowed the faster cars to catch up but not pass the slower cars in front. I think they set them off with two laps to go and Glenn must have decided to go for it although there was some confusion about the chequered flag being presented a lap earlier, but this was not the case. Glenn decided to go for it but there are always added hazards when you are passing cars with speed differentials who all have a chance of winning. With two corners to go there was no gap and his luck ran out.”
While it wasn’t the way anyone wanted the weekend to end, we’re sure the team will be back as good as new in no time at all. We wish them all the best for the rebuild, and for the arrival of their third car, which is being adapted to run in endurance events. As if two out of 15 ever made wasn’t cool enough!