Shane van Gisbergen and ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett, are the latest big names confirmed for the Highlands 501 from November 10-12. The Highlands 501 will be the last Australian GT event to be held at the Central Otago track and it promises to be a fitting finale featuring two of the most exciting drivers in the country.
Highlands has been a happy hunting ground for van Gisbergen who won the Highlands 101 in 2015 with Klark Quinn. The V8 Supercars star celebrated with a burnout in front of the fans on the hill and he’s promised a repeat performance in November if he claims his second win in the race.
“I’d never done a skid in a GT car before and it was a pretty cool way to celebrate,” says van Gisbergen. “Hopefully I get the chance to do it again but I’m just stoked Tony has invited me to race in the McLaren. It’s the last Australian GT race at Highlands and I really wanted to be there. I love the race, I love the format and it’s one of my favourite tracks in the world.”
For drift superstar, ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett, it’s another chance to show off his circuit racing skills after an impressive debut at last year’s Hampton Downs 101.
“It’s a dream come true to get back to Highlands and have another crack in a GT car,” says Whiddett. ““I love GT racing. It’s so different to drifting where three judges decide if you win or lose. In the GTs if you’re fast, you’ve got the lap times to prove it. If you’re not, you’re out the back.”
“I put everything into it last year to make sure I was as prepared as possible but even so, I surprised myself. I had no idea how I was going to stack up against some of the top drivers in Australia and New Zealand. To qualify the car in the top ten and finish 8th overall was a huge confidence boost.”
“It’s all about getting a feel for the car. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a GT car or a drift car, on a motorbike or a skateboard. It’s a tool and it’s about making that tool a part of your body as fast as possible.”
Whiddett ended up in hospital in 2015 after he put his drift car into the wall at Highlands, but he’s hoping for better luck at the Highlands 501.
“Highlands requires 100 percent commitment,” says Whiddett. “There’s so much elevation change. There’s no room for error anywhere. Like SVG, I’ve raced on a lot of different tracks around the world and Highlands is my favourite.”
Van Gisbergen and Whiddett received wildcard entries for the event from Highlands owner, Tony Quinn. Quinn has entered two McLaren 650S GT3 cars in the Highlands 501 with driving duties to be shared between van Gisbergen, Whiddett, Highlands resident professional, Andrew Waite and Quinn.
“I can’t decide which drivers to put in which car so we’ve decided to open it up to the public,” says Quinn. “Let us know which drivers you’d like to see racing together by visiting the Highlands Facebook page.”
Everyone who votes will go in the draw to win Fastlaps in Highlands new Ferrari 488 GTB at the Highlands 101. The winner will get free entry to the Highlands 101 and four laps in the passenger seat of the Ferrari with the four different drivers: van Gisbergen, Whiddett, Waite and Quinn.
The Highlands 501 doubles as the final round of the Australian Endurance Championship. Two weeks before the Highlands event the cars and stars of the Australian GT series will race in the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500 from October 28-29.