Local racer set to take on the best at Highlands Motorsport Park
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The championship that has produced several Formula 1 drivers of the past – as well as a multitude of successful Kiwi racers – revs up for the start of its five weekend international series at the fabulous Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell over the weekend of January 12th and 13th – and one of the stars could be local racer Brendon Leitch [pictured below].
It’s the first time the new generation of Toyota Racing Series car has raced at the circuit and the first time since 2013 that the Toyota category has visited.
It’s all set to be a fantastic weekend of racing as the next generation of the world’s top young single seater racers begin their 2019 quest for success – in a field that is sure to include several up and coming Kiwi racers.
Leitch not only has the most experience in the car being used, but is also a circuit employee at Highlands and has done thousands of laps of the track taking passengers for rides around the facility.
On an action-packed bill over the two day meeting are the BNT V8s, enjoying a resurgent year with new drivers and old faces aiming to make a name for themselves in the big V8s.
Last year’s championship saw Andre Heimgartner and Jack Smith excel and go on to impress in the Supercar Championship and Dunlop V8 Series respectively, and there are sure to be more looking to make the most of the opportunity to sharpen their skills ahead of the Australian season.
Porsches are always an outstanding class around Highlands and they’re back for this weekend as well. Late model 991, 997, 996 cars and many more besides make the South Island Championship a thriller for fans of the German marque, and expect a very healthy presence for this huge meeting at the track too.
The most competitive ever Toyota 86 Championship is in town this weekend too. Twenty of the thoroughbred machines will put their drivers to the test around the twists and turns of the circuit and with data sharing and a track new to many, watch out for the driver who gets their head around the technicalities of the track first and sets the pace for the others to match.
Callum Hedge, Connor Adam, Jaden Ransley and Jordan Baldwin will likely be the pick of the bunch.
Click here to go behind the scenes of the Toyota 86 Championship
The V8 Utes are also back at the track for the first time since 2013, with the Holden Commodores doing battle with the Ford Falcon FG and BF models in this most hotly contested of championships. Hamilton’s Glen Collinson leads the championship and is in the field this weekend in his Ford Falcon FG. And adding a different flavour – with their raucous rotaries – will be the first of a two round North and South national championship Mazda event.
The Highlands card also includes one of the best South Island classes in the sport – the OSCA series. OSCA is the longest saloon car class in NZ motorsport and is in its 48th continuous year and over the racing seasons since has seen some epic cars, massive championship battles and produced some well-known drivers and personalities along the way.
Most championship winners over the years have been well known within New Zealand and are motorsport identities, such as Trevor Crowe, Avon Hyde, John Osborne, Ian Munt, Inky Tulloch, Lawrence Knowler, John Harcourt, and Rod McElrea.
Drivers at the front this season include Laine Etwell in his monster V8 Pontiac GT3, Michael Gallagher in his Rotary RX7 GT3, Liam Macdonald's fearsome V8 Falcon GT2, Matt Edgar and Gary Duncan who both run V8-powered RX7s in the GT2 class and Dion Prentice in his V8 Corvette GT2.
These are the current top guns in the overall championship chase and as such can be expected to figure and be there or thereabouts over this weekend at Highlands.
And last but by certainly no means least will be the Rush Hour clash – a one hour tactical and handicapped endurance race which will pit the best of the best against each other in a mini endurance shoot out. Watch out for some big V8s, some GT3 cars and may be one or two other mega fast machines in this one off race.
Practice takes place on Friday with two full days of qualifying and racing action on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available on the gate but there’s a 50 per cent discount available by booking in advance on Eventfinda (Search for Speed Works MotorSport NZ Championship). Kids 14 and under go free, which will also make it a fantastic weekend of fun for the family during the schools holidays.