Brendon Pingel’s record breaking debut at New Zealand’s Highlands Motorsport Park. He was the fastest in free practice, set pole position, set the new lap record (only driver to break into the 1min 51 sec bracket) and made an outstanding comeback from a major race 1 accident to win the final race of the day in a nail biting finish with Craig Woods and fellow Queenslander Simon Smith. “Wow what an event of highs and lows but its surely one I will never forget!!! After being the quickest in free practice then grabbing my very 1st pole position, I was so exited about the real possibilities of a win at this world class circuit said Brendon. A disappointment thru no fault of my own in race 1, a win in race 4, and being the new lap record holder at this awesome international circuit and finishing 4th in the points with a DNF made this one of my most memorable performances yet” Brendon commented. Brendon Pingel set a blistering pace, from the very first practice session right through until the final race, Brendon dominated the field consistently to show that he was the class driver at the inaugural International Aussie Racing Cars opening round at Highland Motorsport Park New Zealand. Brendon adapted immediately to this world class facility and dominated the field with consistent fastest lap times. Up against New Zealand best Andrew Waite National V8 champion and resident Highland Park driver with 5000 laps experience, Brendon showed that he and his Spirit of Lockyer car were the faster package. First practice and Brendon became the fastest Australian by a massive 1.9 seconds quicker than his closest Aussie rival Craig Woods, and only .5 of a second behind local race hero Andrew Waite. Practice session 2, Brendon dominated and set the fastest lap time. In the only all important qualifying Brendon again dominating showing massive speed and car craft. He set the fastest qualifying time .4 of a second quicker than Craig Woods and .5 of a second quicker than Waite. This was Brendons first ever pole position in his Aussie Racing Car career!! In the first points race, as the red lights went out all hell broke loose down into the first corner at the bus stop. The leaders raced four wide however Brendon took the lead and on the second lap coming around off the bridge Peter Carr tagged the back of Brendon’s car twice, spinning him around in the middle of the track where Tony Quinn unable to avoid Pingel, T-boned into the side of his car, and local Toowoomba driver Adam Ubbergang crashed heavily into the other side of Pingel’s car causing massive damage and putting Pingel and Quinn out of the race. Brendon sustained minor injuries but his car was in a very bad way. The team quickly set about working on the major repairs needed replacing the entire differential and axles, repairing the body work with hundreds of zip ties and roles of race tape. With the chassis slightly bent there was no time to spare and 7 and a half hours later the car was wheel aligned, back on its wheels and ready to go.
Unfortunately with two wheels and the only new tyres damaged, the team had to revert to fitting used tyres from last years Bathurst event concerned that they may not see the distance of the next three races. Peter Carr was fined and given a 60 Sec penalty for causing this major incident unnecessarily.
Race two Brendon started from rear of grid and drove an outstanding race to finish seventh and in doing so he set a new lap record, the only driver to break into the sub 1 minute 52 second bracket with a 1minute 51.96 lap time. Race three a reverse grid of the entire field put Brendon starting from grid 18. The skies opened and a wet track greeted the drivers for what can only be described as a race filled with absolute carnage. A full reverse grid is always a recipe for disaster so race control tried to control the mayhem by breaking the field into three groups with staggered starts at five second intervals.
The quick drivers at the rear caught up and in doing so several unfortunate accidents occurred, one which hospitalised last year’s Champion Darren Chamberlain who made contact with the bridge early in the race. By the end of the race Brendon had continued to work his way back to the front of the field, and as the chequered flag dropped he finished in second place only .9 of a second behind the race winner.
On accumulated points Brendan started the final double point race four in grid position eight. As the lights went out he wasted no time in making up places and challenging for position lap after lap. Again major crashes bought out the safety car on two occasions and Brendon took full advantage of his outstanding car speed and driver skills muscling his way through the field, and by the penultimate lap he was in second place challenging again and again until with only half a lap to go he made a brave pass taking the lead and finishing ahead of Craig Woods taking the win in a nail-biting finale to this international event.
Completing only three of the four points races Brendon finished in an outstanding fourth position for round 1 only one point behind a third place podium. “This is without doubt my favourite circuit ever and I am so excited to have been able to achieve great results in such tough conditions here in New Zealand. What an effort our team made to repair my wrecked car and put me back in a position to not only race well but to win in the most important race of the event, to set my first ever pole position and to claim a new international lap record here at Highland Park Brendon said” “I am so excited and so proud to have bought the Spirit of Lockyer to Highland Park and come away with such a great result”