Poll pairs motorsport stars

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT TIGHE

Two of New Zealand motorsport’s big­gest names will team up for the last Aus­tralian GT event to be held in Cromwell.

V8 Su­per­cars cham­pion Shane van Gis­ber­gen and drift­ing leg­end ‘Mad Mike’ Whid­dett will drive one of Tony Quinn’s two McLarens in the High­lands 501 event at the Cen­tral Otago track this week­end.

The Whid­dett and van Gis­ber­gen pair­ing was se­lected via an on­line poll on High­lands Face­book page. Tony Quinn and High­lands res­i­dent driv­ing pro­fes­sional An­drew Waite will race in the other McLaren.

For drift su­per­star, ‘Mad Mike’ Whid­dett, it’s another chance to show off his cir­cuit rac­ing skills after an im­pres­sive de­but at last year’s Hamp­ton Downs 101.

‘‘It’s a dream come true to get back to High­lands and have another crack in a GT car,’’ Whid­dett said.

‘‘For me, be­ing a rookie, it will be awe­some to spend a week­end with SVG and I’m con­fi­dent we’ve got the speed to com­pete with the top guys.’’

High­lands had been a happy hunt­ing ground for van Gis­ber­gen, who won the High­lands 101 in 2015 with Klark Quinn. High­lands owner Tony Quinn said it would be the last time the Aus­tralian GT Cham­pi­onship would race around the Cromwell cir­cuit, but the team at High­lands was look­ing for­ward to next year and an event that would cel­e­brate New Zealand motorsport and driv­ing ta­lent.

‘‘It’s been a hell of a jour­ney over the last five years...I’m one of the few peo­ple in the world who is a cir­cuit owner, event pro­moter, cat­e­gory owner, spon­sor and race car driver and with all of those roles comes dif­fer­ent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. We’ve had some scary mo­ments. In 2015, a Lam­borgh­ini caught fire in the pits and a few laps later an As­ton Martin ended up in the for­est. Thank­fully no­body was in­jured but it’s al­ways a con­cern to me dur­ing the event, that ev­ery­body stays safe and en­joys them­selves.

‘‘I’m very proud of the track, the event and the team at High­lands. We’ve put on a big­ger and bet­ter event ev­ery year and the team punches above it’s weight. We’re com­mit­ted to putting on a big­ger and bet­ter event ev­ery year, and the plan for 2018 is for more of the same, ex­cept this time with a fo­cus on home­grown New Zealand motorsport ta­lent.’’

SUP­PLIED

V8 Su­per­cars cham­pion Shane van Gis­ber­gen and drift­ing leg­end ‘Mad Mike’ Whid­dett will drive in the last Aus­tralian GT event at High­lands 501.

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