The Highlands 101 endurance race: New Zealand’s answer to Bathurst?
Highlands Motorsport Park owner Tony Quinn has ambitious plans for New Zealand’s newest endurance race, the Highlands 101 which runs for the first time on Sunday 10 November.
The Australia-based Scotsman would like to see the 101 lap endurance race become New Zealand’s biggest and most spectacular enduro, a Kiwi equivalent of Australia’s ‘great race’, the Bathurst 1000.
The Highlands 101 race is part of the event of the same name and the Central Otago circuit’s first-ever national and international race meeting running from 8 to 10 November.
Quinn says the whole weekend and especially the purpose-designed 101 race are all about entertainment, which sees competitors race for a magnificent, perpetual claymore sword trophy.
“That’s why the Highlands 101 race features a modern take on the famous Le Mans start, compulsory pit stops and draws its starting line-up from the 42 fastest cars racing during the opening weekend rather than from a set class or category,” says Quinn who confidently expects to be among the fastest 42 cars and therefore contest his own race in the Darrel Lee Aston Martin DBR9 with Kiwi racing star Fabian Coulthard as his co-driver.
“We believe we’ve created a race that’s nothing like anything that’s been done in New Zealand for a number of years.”
Quinn adds: “I think it’s not so much about who wins these long distance races, but the different drivers, cars and strategies we’ll see come into play over the three or so hours that 101 laps of the 4.1 kilometre version of the multi-configuration Highlands circuit will take. That’s where the spectators will see an incredible variety of fantastic race cars from the three fields expected to produce the fastest 42 cars – the Australian GTs, and the 1-Hour and 3-Hour South Island Endurance fields. We’ll have professional racers and top-class privateers in a range of Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Audis, Ginettas, Moslers, Vipers, Corvettes, Fords and more all striving for the honour of winning the inaugural Highlands 101.”
Quinn describes the pre-start activity and actual race start as being a mix of the iconic sprint-for-your-car Le Mans style and traditional grid starts.
“At midday on Sunday, the 42 fastest cars form up on the grid in the start order defined by times set earlier in the weekend. Spectators can then enjoy a 20 minute grid walk, strolling among the cars on-track. Once the grid walk is complete and spectators go back to their vantage points, the 42 competitors get two warm-up laps before coming into pit lane and forming up, angle parked in front of the garages in start order.
“Each car has a numbered orange ribbon attached to the rear, so with the starting driver already safely harnessed in the car, all co-drivers form up in the same order on the other side of pit lane, about 250 metres away. Each team also has a car controller positioned safely to watch for their co-driver to hold up the ribbon and then release the car.
“At the start, each co-driver sprints to the back of the stationery car, holds their ribbon aloft for the car controller to seem who’ll be watching for other cars before they signal their driver to depart. Normal pit lane rules apply so speed is limited to 40 km/h and the starting driver will only accelerate to racing speeds once they’ve exited pit lane.”
Quinn adds: “Of course everyone will be briefed thoroughly and our officials will be watching carefully and issuing drive-through penalties to any teams who create an incident during what will be a frantically exciting start.”
Once into the race proper, teams will be busy planning their pit stop strategies.
“As we know pit stops are often filled with drama and action, so we’ll see two compulsory pit stops and possibly more as teams make driver changes, fit new tyres and refuel. Some cars will last an hour with a full tank, others perhaps an hour and a half. We’re not sure how the track will wear in terms of tyres, so that’s a factor all teams be watching carefully.”
Between the three fields expected to produce the 42 fastest cars, fans will see a number of well-known drivers vying for the Highlands 101 trophy. Kiwi legend Greg Murphy and V8 Supercar commentator Neil Crompton in the Highlands’ McLaren MP4-12C join current V8 Supercar drivers Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen and owner Dwayne Carter in Falcon GT and Australian Dean Canto who’s with Andrew Taplin in a Ferrari 458 GT3. Australian motor racing legend John Bowe is in another Ferrari 458 with Peter Edwards. Fresh from winning his 11th Porsche one-make-series title, Kiwi star Craig Baird joins current Australian GT Championship leader Klark Quinn in a Porsche GT3R. V8 SuperTourer team Tasman Motorsport fields young Kiwi racers Andrew Waite and Simon Evans in the Highlands’ Aston Martin DB9R. The most recent announcement is that V8 Supercar driver Jason Bright, who won the Jason Richards Trophy at Pukekohe’s V8 Supercars event in April, joins Rod Salmon and Liam Talbot in the Skwirk.com.au Audi R8 to join for the Highlands 101 race with the team using the event as part of their build-up to next year’s Bathurst 12-Hour Race.
Crews are racing for a custom-built claymore sword trophy created especially for the Highlands 101 by Mark Zetzer of 5 Star Trophies, Melbourne created the Claymore Sword trophy. The swords within the trophy came from the USA and had to meet specific requirements to be transported internationally.
Helping spectators keep track of the ever-changing running order of such an endurance race will be expert commentators Allan Dick and Australian GT Championship media manager Sean Henshelwood. Commentary is broadcast both on track and on via FM radio (FM107.9) for spectators to pick up via their mobile phone or portable radio. The Race Monitor application, available for virtually all smart phones, provides living timing with lap times, track positions and more.
Tickets for the inaugural Highlands 101 are available from TicketDirect or at the gate, with the best value option a pre-purchased three-day pass, only available via TicketDirect, at $189 per adult and $49 per youth aged 11 to 15 years. One-day passes are also available from TicketDirect or at the gate. Children aged 10 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult.
The Highlands 101 event provides a weekend’s worth of high octane action with the largest array of supercars ever seen in New Zealand. Further top-class entertainment includes high speed parade laps by the Benetton B191 Ford Cosworth Formula 1 car, recently purchased for the Highlands Motorsport Park national motorsport museum, motorcycle stunts, rally cars getting it sideways and model aeroplanes overhead.
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.
For more information, please contact:
Mike Sentch, Manager, Highlands Motorsport Park
T: 03 445 4052
For further media information, images and event detail, please contact:
Kate Gordon-Smith, Media Manager Highlands 101
M: 021 587 227