Tony Quinn, owner of Highlands Motorsport Park, paid credit to the thousands of hardy Central Otago motorsport fans who continued to enjoy a great day of race action despite showers and the wind turning to a cool southerly.
Highlands’ first race meeting featuring the Toyota Racing Series (TRS), the BNT V8 SuperTourers (V8ST), the UDC New Zealand V8 Utes and the Autosure Central Muscle Cars has proved popular with spectators. Hundreds enjoyed fully-catered corporate hospitality in suites and marques overlooking the Highlands’ complex and thousands more took to the grassy slopes near the museum or the new Silver Fern Berm spectator area.
Quinn says: “It was fantastic to see such a big crowd wrapped up in coats and enjoying a great spectacle of racing today from all the competitors who coped remarkably well with the variable, wet track conditions.”
In a weekend of firsts, Sunday’s rain provided the first day of wet racing on the Highlands’ circuit, something Highlands’ events and marketing manager Melanie Kees said had to come.
“It’s all part of running a full race weekend and we’re delighted with how competitors, officials, marshals and volunteers have worked to create an entertaining day of racing for fans to enjoy,” Kees says.
“Understandably attendance numbers are down a little today with the wet weather, but it’s looking in the region of 18,000 to 20,000 fans over the whole weekend.”
On track, V8 star Greg Murphy dominated the BNT V8SuperTourer class both days and winning Sunday’s final two races. Murphy, back living in his home region of Hawke’s Bay, leads the championship with 291 points ahead of Aucklanders Andre Heimgartner and Richard Moore with 228 and 213 points respectively. Murphy scored all possible points, except the bonus points for the single fastest lap which was taken by Hamilton’s Ant Pedersen in the final race.
British racing driver Jann Mardenborough won the final TRS race of the weekend on the slippery, wet track and took maximum round points. With this event the third of five TRS rounds, Estonian Martin Rump holds a narrow lead ahead of Mardenborough and Tang with Invercargill’s Damon Leitch the leading kiwi.
In the UDC NZ V8 Utes, Queenlander Kris Walton won all three races over the weekend ahead of Aucklanders Mike Lightfoot and Peter Ward while in the Central Muscle Cars (CMC), Steve Noyer piloted his Ford Mustang to two popular wins ahead of fellow Aucklander Dean Perkins in his ex-police Ford Falcon. The original 34 CMC entries were decimated to just 22 competitors in the final race due to mechanical failures or the tricky conditions.
With Highlands’ usual activities and entertainment – such as the national motorsport museum, go kart racing, fast laps and mini golf which bring between 200 and 300 people to the facility each day – resuming on Monday, the events team will turn their attention the inaugural Highlands Speed Revival running Easter Saturday and Sunday, 19 and 20 April.
“This is Highlands’ first classic style meeting is based on the world renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed and celebrates New Zealand’s incredible motor racing heritage with many wonderful examples of historic and classic cars on show and being raced during the two-day event,” Kees says. “We’ll be celebrating the drivers and everything that goes with the sport in a real festival-type atmosphere, and are excited about joining up with Warbirds Over Wanaka
Among the dozens of vehicles and owners confirmed is the Lycoming Special sports racing car built by legendary New Zealand engineer, Ralph Watson. Driven by Malcolm Gill and Bruce McLaren, the Lycoming Special is now owned and raced by Ralph Smith who’ll enjoy the chance to race his famous car at the Highlands Speed Revival.
For more information on the Highlands Speed Revival and all regular Highlands Motorsport Park facilities, please visit the website www.highlands.co.nz.