Star New Zealand driver Jason Richards is one of the first major signings announced for the inaugural V8 Ute International at Manfeild Raceway, Palmerston North next February.

The 29 year old from Nelson in the South Island of New Zealand is looking forward to being back in front of his home crowd.

The 'Killa Kiwi' returns after previously winning the New Zealand Touring Car Championship at Manfield in 2001.

His podium finish at the Super Cheap 1000 at Mt. Panorama earlier this year in particular proves Richards is a definite V8 Superstar of the future. The Tasman Motor Sports driver has been found real form this year and is one of Holden's leading young guns.

Richards will share the two driver event with Holden stalwart Gary Baxter in the Sage Racing Commodore. Baxter finished third in this year's Yokohama V8 Ute Racing Series, and has been the most consistent Holden driver all season.

Sage Racing team manager Andrew Eglinton brokered the deal which includes backing from Super Cheap Auto for the NZ event.

"Jason Richards is an explosive driver and we're very excited about what his profile and obvious driving skill will bring to the table." Eglinton said.

"We're obviously thrilled to sign an aggressive market leader like Super Cheap for a really innovative and spectacular event like the New Zealand race. This is a very big breakthrough for the sport of Ute Racing and certainly for our team. We'll be working hard in New Zealand to promote and grow the Super Cheap brand in every conceivable manner."

Richards is already a Ute Racing convert and believes that the utes have been spectacular to watch during this years V8 Supercar series.

"Clearly it's a competitive and tough style of racing and I'm excited to be a part of the SAGE Racing team and looking forward to driving with Gary. I can't wait to get out there and have a crack at it, especially with plenty of my former NZ rivals also likely to line up," he stated.

The event, scheduled over February 4/5 will feature 20 Australian ute's crossing the Tasman for the first time, with team's nominating an Australian and a New Zealand driver. Each driver will do 2 heats before combining for a 24 lap final with a compulsory driver change.

V8 Ute administrators Craig Denyer and Bill West spent last week in New Zealand finalising the race weekend with the Manfeild Trust, promoters of the event. Other major New Zealand drawcards are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.