Haase takes AGT pole for Audi at Highlands’ season finale

Relish Communications

Professional racing driver Christopher Haase, from Germany, has set the fastest lap in qualifying to take pole position from Kiwi star Shane Van Gisbergen for the first of two Australian GT Championship races at Highlands Motorsport Park this weekend.

The Australian GT finale at the Cromwell, New Zealand circuit is part of the biggest weekend of motor racing run at Highlands each year, which also features the Highlands 101 endurance race.

“We’ve seen an astonishing and exciting start to our Highlands 101 weekend today,” says Mike Sentch, general manager of Highlands Motorsport Park. “That was an incredibly intense qualifying for the Australian GT Championship and we can’t wait to see the field hit the track in earnest tomorrow for their final two races of the season.”

Haase, co-driving for Steve McLaughlan in the Jamac-Penn Racing / Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 LMS GT3 Ultra, set a time of 1 min 32.709 sec on the 4.1 km Highlands GT circuit. The Audi factory driver’s time came right near of the second 30-minute qualifying session and pipped Van Gisbergen who had set provisional pole in the McLaren 650S he’s driving with Klark Quinn with a best time of 1 min 32.573 sec just a few minutes prior to Haase’s.

It’s the fastest time of the two sessions which create the starting grid for the first of two 60-minute races on Saturday. In the earlier 30-minute qualifier, Nathan Antunes piloted the Swirk.com.au Audi to a time of 1 min 32.984 sec, placing him third on the grid. Current Australian GT series leader Christopher Mies, from Germany, set the fourth-quickest time, a 1 min 33.034 sec, in the second Jamac-Penn Racing / Melbourne Performance Centre Audi. New Zealand-based Trass Family Motorsport will line up fifth on the grid in their Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 courtesy of Jono Lester’s time of 1 min 33.146 sec.

For Haase, it’s his first time racing in the Australian GT series, first time racing with Australian GT regular Steve McLaughlan as well as his first time racing in New Zealand. He said: “I’m very happy. Here in New Zealand, the weather is beautiful and the team did a fantastic job with the car. Step by step, we improved a few seconds. Now the big game is coming, the two races. The times were coming better as the conditions got better and better and we had to find the right spot on the track, so we were lucky to get the right spot to get the time for pole.”

Van Gisbergen paid credit to Haase. “To be that close [to pole] was a shame, but that’s just the way it goes. We’ve got a little work to do on the car, but it’s very fast. To be consistent over an hour race, we’ll have to settle it down and look after the tyres, but it’s a good start.”

The first Australian GT race gets underway at 10.55am on Saturday and the results from this will determine the starting grid for the second race at 2pm.

Then on Sunday, for the big Highlands 101 enduro, the 37-strong comprises largely the Australian GT competitors plus an additional eight New Zealand teams. A late rush of entries from largely local drivers sees the 1+01 one-hour race field swell to 38 and 25 entries in the Euromarque category means the many thousands of fans expected at Highlands on Saturday and Sunday can enjoy an array of exciting race action. Motorcycle stunts and a special demonstration run from superbike racer Sloan Frost on his Suzuki GSXR1000 superbike add to the on-track entertainment. Spectators can also enjoy a special helicopter display featuring a former British Army Air Corps helicopter, a 1960s-built Westland Scout courtesy of the team from Warbirds over Wanaka, and flyboard demonstrations on the Highlands lake.

The events schedule includes competitor practice sessions on Friday 13 November with public viewing available from the top terrace with a weekend pass or an entry ticket to the Highlands’ national motorsport museum. On Saturday and Sunday, paying spectators can enjoy the free pit-lane walks, practice and racing from all classes, great viewing sites around the circuit, an array of local food and beverage providers and entertainment. To purchase tickets online, visit TicketDirect www.ticketdirect.co.nz and search for ‘Highlands 101’. Tickets are also available at the gate. More information about the Highlands 101 and the many activities and adventures running daily at Highlands Motorsport Park is available from www.highlands.co.nz or find Highlands on Facebook or Twitter.

Haase takes AGT pole for Audi at Highlands’ season finale

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