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.
Qualifying results, round 6, Australian GT Championship
1, Steve McLaughlan/Christopher Haase, Audi, 1:32.709
2, Klark Quinn/Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren, 1:32.753
3, Nathan Antunes, Audi, 1:32.984
4, Christopher Mies/Ryan Miller, Audi, 1:33.034
5, Jono Lester/Graeme Smyth, Ferrari, 1:33.146
6, Andrew Miedecke/George Miedecke, Aston Martin, 1:34.042
7, Michael Hovey/Cameron McConville, Ferrari, 1.34.161
8, Morgan Haber, Mercedes-Benz, 1.34.527
9, Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer, Ferrari, 1.34.535
10, Max Twigg/Shae Davies, Mercedes, 1:34.856