Billionaire Gabe Newell enlists Kiwi drifting ace for new race team raising money for Starship children's hospital

Billionaire game developer Gabe Newell has started a race car team in New Zealand and enlisted a Kiwi drifting champion to raise money for the Starship Foundation - and they've already won their first race.

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The Heart of Racing will features Spanish driver Alex Riberas and Kiwi drifting champ Darren Kelly. Source: The Heart of Racing

Newell and a group of friends were visiting New Zealand when the Covid-19 pandemic began early this year, and they decided to stay here to weather the storm.

In July, he announced a free event in Auckland to say thanks to New Zealand for having them, which was to include virtual reality setups, art installations, live music and food stalls - but due to the re-implementation of Level 3 in Auckland, it was postponed.

Billionaire US gaming tycoon Gabe Newell sets up event to thank NZ for having him during Covid-19

Now, he's turned his attention to a new Kiwi chapter of his The Heart of Racing (THoR) racing team, which has been operating out of Seattle for more than 20 years.

Along with Spanish racecar driver Alex Riberas, who has been driving for THoR for some years, the group has also enlisted Kiwi D1NZ champion Darren Kelly.

The Heart of Racing drivers Alex Riberas, left, and Darren Kelly. Source: The Heart of Racing

"The Heart of Racing program really resonates with me and I feel lucky to begin my career in endurance racing with this team," Kelly said.

"As a Kiwi who spent a lot of time at Starship as a child, I am so excited to race for these kids."

The team has already raised more than $250,000 for the Starship Foundation, with spokesperson Melanie Esplin saying they are delighted.

"We are thrilled that going into the season, THoR has already raised $250,000 towards our National Children's Intensive Care Unit to support the continued delivery of world-class care for critically sick and injured children from across the country," she said.

THoR's New Zealand chapter had their Australasian debut at the weekend at Teretonga Park near Invercargill, winning the first round of the South Island Endurance Series but about half a second over a three-hour race.

The Heart of Racing team with their Aston Martin GT3 after winning the first round of the South Island Endurance Series at Teretonga Park. Source: The Heart of Racing

They're also competing in the North Island Endurance Series, with the first race scheduled at Hampton Downs this Friday.

Their car is an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 imported from the UK, a rear-wheel drive monster with more than 400kW of power and 700Nm of torque coming out of its four litre twin turbo V8 engine.

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