Grids in New Zealand endurance racing are extremely varied at he best of times, with everything from high-end exotic GT3s right down to near-standard BMW E30s. But there is one vehicle on the grid that stands out more than any other, and could, from a distance, be mistaken for a tow vehicle — hell some of the race cars that it's sharing the grid with were probably towed to the track by one of its siblings. But make no mistake, the SsangYong-dealer team's race ute is no push over, as we found out recently at Auckland Performance Tuning (APT).  

You have probably seen, or heard of, the one-make Ssangyong Actyon Race Series running here in New Zealand, but this particular Actyon has been taken to another level to compete in the endurance series, GTRNZ, and some other events that are in the pipeline. In the photo above is Alexandra Whitley, five-time Australian karting champ, who shares pedaling duties alongside Dion Cooper. When we visited APT, the finishing touches were being put on the ute's rebuild following a roll over. The clock was ticking with the start of the Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series looming, but with things not 100-per-cent sorted, the team decided to sit out round one and aim for round two in Christchurch on October 1.

As mentioned, the ute took some damage in its crash, including damage to the roof panel, so the opportunity to replace it with a lighter fibreglass item, made by Mike Shaw, was taken. Further weight reduction included polycarbonate windows, and the rear firewall is now alloy. Total weight reduction has brought the ute down to around 1200kg, which is light when you consider the racing series ones are 1600kg. 

Further weight has been dropped by removing all the guts from the doors and rear tailgate. You can also get a glimpse of the aero aids in the form of a Nascar-style wing and rear diffuser that extends towards the diff.  

The team at Mitchell Race Xtreme (MRX) in Hamilton have carried out some extensive chassis work to stiffen everything up. Not only did they add bars to the roll cage, they also stiffened the frame rails using large crosses. 

The tray bed has been completely removed for weight-loss purposes. For during the races, there is a cover for the bed, and the fuel system is topped up through the tail gate–mounted dry break. The rear suspension is all tied into the chassis just as it would be in a race ‘car’. 

The brakes and suspension are the same items that you will find on a V8 SuperTourer; two-piece Brembo rotors, Bremob mono block calipers, and two-way adjustable KW coilovers. The sway bars are also adjustable-blade types.  The wheel-and-tyre package is also the same as what would be found on a V8 SuperTourer; 18s and Hankook slicks. Are you starting to get the picture of how this is now a workhorse of a different kind?

The cooling package still utilizes a factory alloy radiator, but is joined by a Fluidyne oil cooler, gearbox cooler for the TTi sequential, and a rather large front-mount intercooler. 

The reason for the cooler is the turbocharged Mercedes two-litre engine. The team at MRX have built a new plenum, and ATP have recently wired in a new MoTeC PDM and ECU. The electronics package now rivals anything it shares the grid with — including flat shifting for the gearbox. 

The team at Edgell Automotive have put together a built motor capable of making some serious power, without sacrificing any reliability. The ute podiumed last season, and the team will be hoping to repeat that performance on October 1, when they line up at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch for round two of the Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series. 

Image: SsangYong Racing Series

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.