Countdown to history-making Highlands 101
Highlands Motorsport Park aerial view
Highlands Motorsport Park
Event preview #1: Highlands 101, 8-10 November 2013
18 October 2013
Countdown to history-making Highlands 101
In just three weeks, New Zealand’s newest motor racing facility, Cromwell’s Highlands Motorsport Park, hosts its first-ever race meeting called the ‘Highlands 101’.
Utilising New Zealand’s longest race circuit at 4.1 kilometres, the 8 to 10 November event marks a number of firsts for the hard-working Highland Motorsport Park team led by passionate Australian businessman and motorsport competitor Tony Quinn.
This event is both the first national and the first international race meeting at the seven-month-old facility.
The headline act, the Australian GT series, competes outside Australia for the first time, allowing New Zealand race fans to see exotic racers like Ferraris, Corvettes, Lamborghinis, Audis, Aston Martins, Porsches and Highland Motorsport Park’s own McLaren MP4 12C making its race debut in the hands of Kiwi racing legend Craig Baird and Australian motorsport commentator Neil Compton.
Toyota’s brand-new TR86 series, now officially the Toyota Finance 86 Championship, makes its world debut at the first of seven meetings for the new one-make series.
Sunday’s 101-lap feature race of the same name, the Highlands 101, features a unique – and still secret – Le Mans style start.
In another unique move, the Highlands 101 field will be drawn from the fastest 42 cars in action during the weekend’s earlier races.
Highlands Motorsport Park manager Mike Sentch, a Kiwi who’s worked with numerous Australian V8 Supercar teams before being head-hunted for this role, says the addition of the star-strewn 2013 South Island Endurance Series finale to the race card helps create one of the most amazing weekends of motorsport in New Zealand.
“When you start listing the cars and drivers lining up to race at the Highlands 101 weekend, it’s pretty much a who’s who of Australasian motor racing,” says Sentch.
“Craig Baird, Fabian Coulthard, John Bowe and Greg Murphy are, respectively, driving a McLaren MP4 12C, a Porsche, a Ferrari 458 and a Chevrolet Corvette among the 22-plus line-up for the Australian GT finale.
“Household names like Shane Van Gisbergen, Daniel Gaunt, John McIntyre and Johnny Reid are likely to contest the three-hour race in the South Island Endurance Series, and there’s also a one-hour endurance race in this SIERDC series with more top-class cars and drivers.
“And while we haven’t seen the Toyota Finance 86 Championship entry list yet, we’re assured there are some surprise and popular names set to feature.”
Sunday’s feature race, the Highlands 101, will become New Zealand’s newest long distance race. The quickest 42 cars, from any of the fields, get the opportunity to tackle 101 fast and gruelling laps around the Highlands circuit. For those that don’t make the cut, the Highlands 10+1 gives them another 11-lap opportunity to enjoy racing on the circuit described by most that have driven it as exhilarating.
Creating an incredible wail that can only come from a Formula 1 engine, the star of the lunchtime on-track entertainment will undoubtedly be the Benetton B191 Ford Cosworth Formula 1 car. Recently purchased by Quinn for the circuit’s museum, this car was raced by seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher. Australian race driver and Quinn’s engineer Brett Francis will be at the wheel. Motorcycle stunts, rally cars getting it sideways and model aeroplanes will add to the entertainment.
Sentch says several thousand fans have already pre-purchased tickets for one, two or all three days of the November event.
“Race fans are coming from all over Australia to see the finale of the increasingly-popular Australian GT series and many more are travelling from most parts of New Zealand to see, first-hand, this history-making weekend of motorsport. There’s never been anything like it in New Zealand motorsport so, a message to those yet to decide, we urge you to book ahead for accommodation. While Cromwell itself is booked out, there are excellent accommodation options within 45 minutes’ drive of Highlands Motorsport Park in Queenstown, Wanaka, Clyde and Alexandra.”
One particular directive from Highlands Motorsport Park developer Tony Quinn that Sentch is looking forward to implementing is greater accessibility for fans in and around the cars, pits and drivers.
“Tony’s keen to make the Highlands’ meetings feel quite European, to allow general admission ticket holders to walk through the pit paddock any time to chat to their favourite drivers and check out the amazing array of racing machinery. There’s also a free pitlane walk first thing each morning and just before the Highlands 101, all 42 cars will be lined up on display for everyone to stroll around on the track. It’s going to be a lot of fun and again, something a bit different.”
The weekend’s schedule gets underway at 9am Friday with practice and qualifying sessions for the three-hour and one-hour SIERDC fields, Australian GTs and Toyota 86s. The honour of the first-ever international race goes to the Australian GT competitors who contest a 40 minute race with compulsory pit stop for teams with a ‘seeded’, i.e. professional driver, getting underway at 3.45pm on Friday.
Saturday’s on-track action is primarily racing with all four fields – including the inaugural TR86 race – tackling New Zealand’s newest and longest race track for a full day of action.
Sunday sees qualifying split into two groups for the 42 starters of the unique, mixed-field Highlands 101 before the third TR86 race. Then the first-ever Highlands 101 gets underway with its as-yet-secret Le Mans-style start for 42 of the fastest supercars ever seen racing in New Zealand.
Sentch says tickets are available from TicketDirect or at the gate.
“The best value is the pre-purchased three day pass, only available via TicketDirect, at $189 per adult and $49 per youth aged 11 to 15 years. The pre-purchased adult day passes are discounted by $10 compared to the gate pass. Children aged 10 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult,” says Sentch.
More information is available on the website, www.highlands.co.nz, where fans can sign up for free e-newsletters and find links to the event timetable, Facebook page and more.
Highlands Motorsport Park comprises the 4.1 kilometre race track which can be used in six configurations, a kart track, skid pan, mini golf, a treasure-filled motorsport museum, rental garages, motorsport mechanical services on-site and a members’ lounge. Opened at Easter in 2013, the 37 hectare site takes in an established pine forest, extensive plantings of native and exotic trees and grasses and The Nose Restaurant and Wine Adventure facilities. A control tower and pitlane complex is currently in construction and with a constant stream of visitors, the seven-day-a-week facility is proving to be more than just a motor racing circuit.
Download the Highlands 101 event programme - http://highlands.co.nz/Files/101-Summarised-Event-Timetable.pdf
Download the Highlands 101 circuit map and ticket information - http://highlands.co.nz/Files/101-ticket-map.pdf