The Aussie Racing Cars made history when they hit the track at New Zealand’s newest and most exciting circuit, Highlands Motorsport Park. The half-size pocket rocket series is the first Australian based racing series to have its opening round outside of Australia.
The five 40 foot containers made their way across the ditch with more than 60% of our normal track entries, we fielded 25 cars, we also bought along a huge amount of spares, like tyres, engines, body shells, diff’s and more engines, plus all the tools each team would need at a race meeting. This was a huge undertaking and thanks to all the teams for having their cars ready to rock and roll over the Tasman to Christchurch. First by boat from Brisbane and Sydney, we then packed the containers onto trucks for the 5 hour road trip to Cromwell.
Cromwell is a quiet little township in the middle of the South Island where in 1990 it was partly flooded (on purpose) when they built the Clyde Hydro Dam, before this they moved many of the old town buildings to dryer lodgings, many of the teams were able to drop by “Old Cromwell Town” to have a look around.
Our teams stayed in various different places, some in Cromwell itself, some up the road by 35minutes in the picturesque township of Wanaka, a beautiful tourist mecca, but not as big as Queenstown where the majority of the teams stay! A number of crew and families commented this was their first trip outside of Australia and that they had never seen snow! Whilst there wasn’t any around the mountains near the circuit, we did see snow on the Southern Alps as we flew in. Maybe in 2016 we should race at Highlands in the Winter!
The teams rocked up to Highlands on Thursday as the cars were coming out of the containers, the NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries were there to inspect every car for our Aussie Bugs and Spiders or dirt! A number of cars had to be vacuumed before they were released to the teams. Now the work began, the cars had to be prepped for Friday morning’s first practice.
This first round saw 4 of the new Mustang body shells along with the new Camaro, three of the Mustangs were entered by the new Western Sydney Motorsport team headed by Craig Thompson, an ARC Rookie last year, he was also joined by his brother Grant (a 2015 Rookie) and Craig Woods an Aussie car regular. Woods would actually go on to have his best race meeting ever and take the round win.
Out of the box (or container) last year’s front runners, Darren Chamberlin (current champ), Brendon Pingel (number 2 last year) and Peter Carr (third place last year) were straight onto the pace and swapping fastest times during practice and qualifying.
Highlands Professional Driver Andrew Waite also set the pace early on with his local track knowledge, balanced against not knowing the cars as well as the Aussie drivers. However that turned into a baptism by fire, in race four on a safety car restart he came together with Phil Ward half way to the first turn bus stop which resulted in the car overturning and Waite going for a wild ride, the number 2 AHG Euro GT suffered extensive damage and Waite competed in Wards Camaro for the final race.
For Chamberlin the weekend started well but ended bad with him almost totalling his Toyota Aurion when he slammed into the concrete wall when entering the bridge, he suffered mild concussion and was taken to hospital for observations but managed to get back to watch the last race on the weekend.
Queenslander Simon Max Smith (Falcon) shone over the weekend, after only completing the non-championship Gold Coast Round last year he has started the year off well coming second for the round. Mark Griffith (Euro GT) was third for the round and also on the top step for the ARC Gold Cup. Another Queenslander Brendon Tucker (Falcon) leads the Masters Cup rankings.
The event had 9 on track sessions, two practice, qualifying for Race one which was actually qualifying for Race two and then 5 more race events. The Highlands circuit has a bit of everything, its 4.5kms long with corners like the constant radius turn of the Southern Loop, a bus stop, 2 hairpins one in a forest the other in front of the main crowd, a parabolic turn with step banking and of course the bridge, plus the front straight is actually a curve, gee those kiwi’s, actually the circuit of course is owned by the Aussie Car Series owner Tony Quinn.
The Highland’s Aussie Racing Car Lap Record continued to fall over the course of the event, and Brendon Pingel left New Zealand being the only driver breaking into the 1min 51 sec bracket. The drivers fastest times over all of the races can be seen here: http://www.mylaps.com/en/classification/3368975
After all the racing was done the cars had to be all cleaned and vacuumed out again and packed into the 5 containers on Sunday night ready for the return trip. Quite a few cars sustained damage over the weekend and will need a fair amount of work before our next round at Symmons Plains (Tasmania) March 27-29.
As part of our new Media for 2015 we will have race and qualifying reports after each session published on our Facebook page and on our website, these will also go as links on our Twitter feed. We will also publish a gallery of images during each round on Facebook and on our website. This rounds race reports can be found on our website and Facebook pages.
Current Standings after Round One
Craig Woods 102 pts
Simon Smith 100 pts
Mark Griffth 98 pts
ARC Gold Cup
Mark Griffith 102 pts
Tony Quinn 100 pts
Allen Smith 98 pts
Andrew Waite 102 pts
Ben Walsh 100 pts
Kynan Yu 98 pts