Keeping it in the family

Trass Family Motorsport (TFM) is one of just a few New Zealand teams competing in the Hampton Downs 101 and they’re hoping to build on what has been an incredible domestic season in endurance racing. With Kiwi driver Sam Fillmore and Australian Danny Stutterd behind the wheel, TFM took out the 2016 North Island and South Island Endurance Championships, the first team to win both in the same season. What made their achievement even more remarkable is the fact that Team Principal, Gerald Trass has only been involved in motorsport since 2014.

“I was a fan before I got the opportunity to get involved in motorsport. I remember a friend of mine used to race out at Hampton Downs years ago and I used to call him crazy. I thought ‘what idiot would spend money on tyres, fuel, repair, maintenance and the rest and all for nothing?’ I mean he never won a race and I just couldn’t understand the bug. Until I got on the track myself in a fast car and got bitten by the bug myself. Motorsport started out as a hobby for me but then I saw a business opportunity. I decided to ease back on the racing and let other people lease the cars.”

Fillmore and Stutterd raced Trass’ Ferrari 458 GT3 to domestic glory this year and Trass is hopeful they can make the step up to the Australian GT standard.

“Last year we did the full AGT season in Australia and New Zealand,” he says. “We got five pole positions out of seven which meant we had the quickest car but we had a lot of misfortune. We had flat tyres, we got penalised for a pit lane violation and at the Highlands 101 last year we were leading the race by over 40 seconds when one of our drivers missed the pitstop window by three seconds and we were disqualified. I was on my way to the pits when it happened thinking we were doing really well. When I got to the pits I got the bad news. I didn’t say anything, I just jumped in my car and went back to my hotel. I couldn’t handle it. I was devastated.”

The team’s success this year has more than made up for the disappointment of Highlands last year.
“In a very short space of time we’ve come from nowhere to be the leading team in endurance motorsport in New Zealand,” says Trass. “That gives me a lot of satisfaction and it’s quite humbling. We haven’t raced in the AGT this year but we’re looking forward to the final two rounds at Hampton Downs and Highlands. A top ten finish at Hampton Downs would be a successful weekend for us because it’s a very strong field but you never know what could happen. Sam and Danny have done six three-hour races in the last three months so they’re up to speed but it’s a different level of competition. One of the advantages Danny and Sam will have is a shorter compulsory pit stop because they’re both amateur drivers and they’re up against some top class professional drivers.”

Sam Fillmore grew up racing motocross bikes before making the move into motorsport.

“I probably wasn’t too good at motocross because I kept breaking bones,” he jokes. “Then I got into offshore powerboating for a few years and won the New Zealand championship. Mike Eady of Tracktime Driving Academy was a friend of mine and he encouraged me to get behind the wheel of a race car a few years ago and that’s how I got started. To win the North Island and South Island Endurance Series this year was a career highlight. It was a new team, a new car and new drivers so it was very special for the whole team.”

The Auckland driver, who runs a civil construction company to help finance his passion for motorsport, is looking forward to testing himself around the new look Hampton Downs.

“What Quinny (Tony Quinn) has done at Hampton Downs and Highlands is very special. It’s like a gift to all of us involved in motorsport in this country. I went down to the first Highlands 101 and bar the Bathurst 12-hour, it’s the most fun weekend racing I’ve had in this part of the world. There’s something special about Highlands with the scenery. It’s my favourite race track but Hampton Downs has a lot going for it and I can’t wait to drive the new track. I drove a Honda Integra around the new circuit when it first opened and I reckon it will be really challenging and really tight around the new section. There are some pretty spectacular drivers coming over. I think that’s the great thing about the Aussie GT series, that two amateur drivers like Danny and I can have a fighting chance. If Danny and I can scrape into the top ten that would be some achievement for us.”

October 27, 2016

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