Podium spots to be decided in two exciting races
Kiwi V8 Supercars drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard are among the large field of competitors heading to Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park for the final round of the Australian GT Championship and the Highlands 101 endurance race.
V8 Supercar driver Garth Tander and Van Gisbergen will pair up with McLaren-driving father and son Tony and Klark Quinn to contest the two AGT races as well as the 101-lap feature race. Coulthard joins Peter Fitzgerald in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 for the 101 only.
The November 13-15 event will be the third year that the final round of the Australian championship has been held as part of the Highlands Motorsport Park's premier motor racing event, the Highlands 101.
For championship manager Ken Collier, this is an opportunity to show New Zealand motorsport fans how exciting and hard-fought the series has become and to showcase the category's 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 they all returned home with stories of picturesque landscapes, a first-class race venue and fantastic hospitality.
Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, and McLaren will be among the high-profile marques represented on track. Photo / John Morris
"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 racetrack 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 Van Gisbergen, Coulthard, 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 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."
Audi factory driver Christopher Mies (Germany) leads the points table ahead of fellow Audi R8 Ultra driver Nathan Antunes. Ferrari driver Grant Denyer is third ahead of Klark Quinn. Tony Quinn and Jono Lester are fifth equal, making Lester the best-placed Kiwi.