Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes are set deliver to a high profile, trans-Tasman, V8 Supercar angle to November’s Highlands 101 endurance race.
The front-running, Holden-driving rivals are tackling the Highlands event in very different machinery – van Gisbergen in a McLaren GT3 with Australian GT Championship top five contender Klark Quinn while Lowndes joins one of New Zealand’s best-known racers, Inky Tulloch, in the brand-new Camaro GT3.
The Kiwi star and the Aussie champ are both entered for the 101-lap enduro, the feature race of the Highlands 101 event running over the weekend of 8 and 9 November on the Central Otago circuit.
Joining Tulloch in the Camaro thanks to a three-way conversation involving Highlands’ owner Tony Quinn, Lowndes is excited to race at Highlands for the first time and to pilot the first Camaro GT3-spec race car in the Southern Hemisphere.
“One of my biggest reasons for doing the event is to get to race on the Highlands track,” says Lowndes, a three-time V8 Supercar champion. “It looks awesome, I’ve heard great things about it and I can’t wait to get there. Learning new tracks is both challenging and fun, I am looking forward to it.”
The Highlands 101 race weekend is the first time the 650 hp, 7.9-litre Camaro GT3 will be seen in action on the big 4.1 km Highlands circuit.
Tulloch says he’s really looking forward to having a professional of Lowndes’ ability in the car.
“The early form of the Camaro has been promising, but we’re still working through some of the ‘new car’ gremlins,” says Tulloch who was leading a recent endurance event in Christchurch before a sudden and unexpected mechanical failure. “Craig is an outstanding driver with outstanding technical ability to get the best out of any car so I’m looking forward to racing with Craig and seeing him help uncover the true potential of the Camaro.”
Lowndes is also happy to have been asked to drive the Camaro. “It’s a new car to the category and I haven’t even seen it yet. But it’s got a good pedigree and on paper it looks very competitive. It’s a GM product and it’s quite different from the GT cars I’ve raced previously.”
In regards to the Highlands 101 race format with its running start for one of a team’s two drivers, Lowndes says: “We haven’t had a chance to think about who’ll start in the car or who’ll be running yet. It’ll be up to Ian, so maybe we’ll just toss a coin! I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Tulloch and Lowndes are also entered for the final round of the Australian GT Championship, presented by Pirelli, giving them additional practice and race time on-track before the Highlands 101, for which they should presumably qualify with ease.
Van Gisbergen has the advantage over Lowndes of having previously raced at Highlands and also having raced the GT3-spec, Darrell Lea-backed McLaren MP4 12C with Tony and Klark Quinn in February’s Bathurst 12-Hour Race, where he set a new lap record for ‘tin-tops’ at the Mount Panorama circuit.
The Gold Coast-based Kiwi says the Highlands circuit is fun in every car he’s driven there.
“I have visited Highlands a few times now and have driven a number of cars around there. I watched the 101 from the commentary box last year; it’s a different format to most GT races with the Le Mans style start, so that should be fun too!” says van Gisbergen.
“The McLaren is awesome to drive – I love driving GT cars so I’m certainly looking forward to having another go. Klark is a really good driver and, although the seat needs to go quite a way forward for him, in the racing we have done together so far, we have been competitive so I hope we can have a go at getting top step of the podium!”
He joking adds that the decision on whether he or Quinn will start in the car will come down to a paper, scissors, rock challenge.
In terms of the competition, van Gisbergen says: “I saw Inky’s Camaro up close a couple of weeks ago at Highlands; it’s really cool up close! And I raced the Bentleys at the Spa 24-Hour; they are huge cars and very intimidating in the mirror that for sure. Pretty exciting!”
The Highlands 101 race meeting includes:
- The 101-lap feature race where a full grid of 42 cars is expected;
- The final round of the Australian GT Championship where the 2014 championship winners will be decided – current series leader Erebus Motorsport Mercedes Benz SLS AMG driver Richard Muscat has a slim 32 point advantage over VIP Petfoods Aston Martin Vantage driver Tony Quinn;
- The 1+01 endurance race, a one hour plus one lap invitational attracting enduro racers from across the South Island striving to qualify for the Highlands 101;
- The Euromarque 10+1 races, a set of three 11 lap races for cars meeting the German origin regulations;
- A drift demonstration from Kiwi-based, world star ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett in his award-winning MADBUL Mazda RX7;
- A motor show of exotic and supercars;
- Lunchtime entertainment including special appearances from two-time national aerobatic champion pilot Ivan Krippner, the Highlands Benetton F1 car and a spectacular display from Skydive Wanaka.
Tickets are available for the 8 to 9 November Highlands 101 race meeting online from Ticket Direct or at the gate during the race weekend. See the website www.highlands.co.nz for further details on this event and all regular Highlands Motorsport Park attractions, or visit Highlands on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HighlandsMotorsportPark.