Star V8 Supercar drivers Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Garth Tander are among a big field of competitors heading to Highlands Motorsport Park for the final round of the Australian GT (AGT) Championship and the Highlands 101 endurance race.
During the 13-15 November event, Tander and van Gisbergen will pair up with McLaren-driving father-and-son rivals Tony and Klark Quinn to contest the two AGT races as well as the 101-lap feature race, while Coulthard joins Peter Fitzgerald in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 just for the 101.
This will be the third year that the final round of the AGT Championship has been held as part of the Highlands Motorsport Park’s premier motor racing event, the Highlands 101. For AGT Championship manager Ken Collier, this is another opportunity to show New Zealand motorsport fans just how exciting and hard-fought the AGT series has become and to showcase the category’s range of exotic and highly-desirable race cars.
“GT racing worldwide is the most popular race category, even if it is not the highest profile such as Formula 1,” says Collier. “The Australian GT Championship has grown enormously over the past three years and it is no coincidence that Highlands has been the high profile, season-ending race weekend over those years.
“When we first came to Highlands in 2013, there was an unexpected but very positive outcome for the Australian competitors because, without exception, they all returned home with stories of picturesque landscapes, a first class race venue to compete at, and fantastic hospitality, especially from the people of Cromwell. Of course they enjoyed many of the high adrenaline adventures and experiences which are available in the Queenstown region. While I had been to Highlands a few times and had the privilege of standing in an open field in early 2012 as Tony Quinn outlined how he was going to build a family park with a race track in the middle of it, I was still blown away with how the first Highlands event was conducted.
“Another benefit of coming to Highlands every year is that we are receiving more interest from New Zealand motorsport teams who see that they can include the Australian GT racing as a part of their own programmes.
“This year, high profile Kiwi team, Trass Family Motorsport, joined our series competing in a Ferrari 458 GT3. Their young drivers Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth have proven themselves great competitors.
“We also have had several one-off round entries from various New Zealand teams and, of course we have some of the highest profile Kiwi drivers such as V8 Supercar regulars Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Andre Heimgartner, and multiple champion Craig Baird competing with us for this round.
“This year, once again, the Australian GT Championship will be decided at Highlands and I can assure everyone that the competition during Saturday’s two 60-minute races will be absolutely first class. Our series has three divisions – championship, trophy and challenge – and for the first time the podium positions for all three divisions will rely on the results at Highlands, so expect hotly-contested races within each race.”
Currently factory Audi driver Christopher Mies, from Germany, leads the championship points-table ahead of fellow Audi R8 Ultra driver Nathan Antunes. Ferrari driver Grant Denyer holds third ahead of Klark Quinn in fourth. Tony Quinn and Lester are fifth equal, which makes Lester the best-placed Kiwi in the field.
Collier adds: “Highlands is a special venue for Australian GT and, looking forward to 2016 we are bringing not only the final round of the Australian GT Championship to Highlands but also the final round of our new Australian Endurance Championship will be at Highlands. It’s going to be very exciting!”
The AGT field completes their qualifying session on Friday afternoon, followed by two 60-minute races on Saturday. Those lining up for the Highlands 101 have a qualifying session on Sunday morning, before the 12.15 pm grid form-up and free grid walk for all spectators to walk amongst the gleaming array of GT machinery which includes Audi, McLaren, Bentley, Chevrolet Camaro, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, Ginetta and Aston Martin. At 1pm the Le Mans runners line up before the 1.20pm start of the 101-lap all-out endurance race.
To purchase tickets online, visit TicketDirect www.ticketdirect.co.nz and search for ‘Highlands 101 for discounted pre-event tickets, or visit the Highlands office to purchase directly.
GT Championship points up to round 5
Pos Driver Car Total
1 Christopher Mies Audi R8 Ultra 569
2 Nathan Antunes Audi R8 Ultra 504
3 Grant Denyer Ferrari 458 Italia 467
4 Klark Quinn McLaren 650S GT3 409
5= Tony Quinn McLaren 650S GT3 381
5= Jono Lester Ferrari 459 Italia 381
7 Tony D’Alberto Ferrari 458 Italia 350
8 Graeme Smyth Ferrari 458 Italia 301
8 Mex Twigg Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 300
9 Geoff Emery Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 300
10 Greg Crick Audi R8 Ultra 300
GT Trophy points
Pos Driver Car Points
1 Greg Taylor Audi R8 LMS 508
1 Barton Mawer Audi R8 LMS 508
2 Mark Griffith Audi R8 LMS 477
3 Theo Koundouris Porsche 468
4 Simon Ellingham Porsche GT3 Cup Car 321
5 Jan Jinadasa Lamborghini LP520 236
Pos Driver Car Points
1 Michael O’Donnell Porsche GT3 Cup Car 529
2 Tony Alford Lotus Exige Cup Car 523
3 Richard Gartner Porsche GT3 Cup Car 421
4 Mark O’Connor Lotus Exige Cup R 281
5 Brendan Cook Porsche GT3 Cup Car 212