While in the country visiting his grandmother, California’s Dane Cameron blitzed the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series field at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at the weekend.
The US based professional race driver, hot from the 54th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona race competition the weekend prior, won two of the weekend’s three eight-lap races.
Setting a new lap record of 1min32.953sec in the opening race the 27-year-old was in the country, holidaying briefly before the commencement of his 2016 US based SportsCar Championship.
Driving the BMW M3GTR of Matakana’s Mortimer Motorsport, Cameron said the Taupo circuit was where he first drove a race car.
“It was 2002 when I came down (to New Zealand) with my father Rick and I drove the original circuit in the Formula Challenge car. So it was neat to return many years later as a pro and drive the much improved and now named Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park,” said Cameron.
“Warwick (Mortimer) and my family have been close for many years so he always held an open invitation to play with the boys and their cars when I was next in New Zealand. As its a long haul trip in the past we never seemed to find a date between racing in the States and being able to race in New Zealand. So it was when I got round to booking a trip for my wife and sons for their first time to New Zealand it came about. My father gave word to Warwick and he quickly asked if I wanted to do the race. It was pretty hard to say no since I was going to be in town – although I had to delicately ask my wife for permission to have some race fun while on holiday.”
Used to left-hand-drive racing cars Cameron said the biggest difference between the Mortimer BMW and what he’d driven before was the gearshift being on the left side of the steering wheel.
“I’ve driven right-hand drive cars in testing before and they’ve usually had paddle shift on the steering wheel so this was my first time driving a genuine right-hand drive race car – and sequential where the shift is on the left. The similar specification BMWs I’ve raced have all been the regular H pattern.
“It was good to have bit more of relaxing race weekend and it reminded me of earlier days in Karting where everyone is friends and it is much more social. It was neat to be in a casual open setting and reminds you of why people love motor racing – so it was cool to get back to basics.”
“Dane is a friend of the family and was coming to New Zealand to visit his own family – so we offered our third car to him to see what he could do in it,” explained Andre Mortimer, who placed second to Cameron in the weekend’s opening race in his freshly debuted GT4 specification M3 BMW.
“While it was a one-off drive we wanted him to have a fun weekend and let him loose in the car to see what he could do.
“He’s a super-talented and salt-of-the-earth guy. It was cool for the other BMW guys to chat with him in the weekend and get information from someone who is running at a top professional level.
“For us it was a chance to get his opinion on the car’s setup and see what it could do in the hands of a proper race driver.”
Figuring he would be quick Cameron finished the opening eight lap race with a leading margin of 19.410 seconds ahead of Mortimer, with Andrew Nugent a further three seconds behind.
Sunday morning’s handicap start race was won by B category competitor Nigel Patterson, ahead of class rival Barry Kirk-Burnnand. Cameron finished fourth.
Cameron won the afternoon and final race by 23 seconds ahead of Kent Baigent with Bob Sievwright third. Warwick Mortimer in the sister car finished fourth.
A non-championship round outside the seven event 2015/2016 season, the Taupo weekend combined cars in the Open A+B and 2L categories.
The series returns to full competition 20-21 February for the season’s fifth round for the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series – being held at Pukekohe, as part of the Tasman Revival weekend.