Motorsport: Kiwi fans set to get GT Endurance spectacular

This month sees North Island race fans' first opportunity to witness door-to-door GT racing at its best, as the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship (AEC) makes its way to the newly rejuvenated Hampton Downs circuit.

The inaugural GT event at Hampton Downs - and the third round of the AEC - will see a full field of race-ready 2016 spec GT cars competing across 101 laps during the action packed weekend of 28-30 October, before the series moves to the spectacular setting of Highlands Motorsport Park for the ultimate round - the Highlands 101 - in November.

The Australian GT Championship will also be decided at Highlands across that same race weekend (11-13 November), setting up a spectacular three days of premium level race action.

Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom are the joint current series leaders having accumulated 327 points through the first two rounds at Phillip Island near Melbourne and Sydney Motorsport Park while Klark Quinn is on 261 points.

With teams covering some decent miles over the next two months as the AGT takes on a distinctly Kiwi flavour, it's a timely reminder that the FIA GT category is a truly global competition, with hardware that is as suited to Silverstone as it is to Sydney Motorsport Park; to the Hungaroring as it is to Hampton Downs.

Standardising FIA-approved GT racing at a global level has had myriad benefits for racers, team owners and fans alike, regardless of where in the world they happen to be racing or watching.

As circuit owner Tony Quinn says, for top tier drivers - and especially those younger competitors coming up through the ranks - contracted racing within GTs remains remarkably viable, not just here but across the European summer too, with plenty of counter-season racing opportunities in familiar cars.

"The category has untold benefits for drivers and race teams," says Quinn.

"GT cars from all brands competing in both the northern and southern hemispheres are essentially identical. So, in theory, a northern hemisphere team could containerise its car, ship it to Australasia and race it down here during the European off-season."

In Europe various GT series' provide a full calendar of events staged at all points on the continent. The busy calendar sees GT competitors clocking up track time in a range of highly publicised events, ranging from sprint cups, to three-hour/1000km endurance races and, of course, the Total 24 Hours of Spa (the ultimate 24-hour race for FIA GT category cars).

Back in Australasia, there's now even an opportunity for drivers to get involved in the AGT with previous generation race cars too.

With this year being the first season with a full 2016-spec competitor field (proof-positive of the massive surge in interest in GT racing in our neck of the woods), the Australian GT Trophy Series has been created specifically for pre-2016 models, meaning previous generation cars remain on-track in their own series.

"Again, the idea that a Kiwi- or an Aussie-based race car is the same as one run by a team headquartered in France or Germany really pays off here," Quinn continues.

"Because of that level of standardisation, in a couple of years' time I could sell my Aston Martin GT car on to someone who is looking to get into the series.

"These cars' components and engines are incredibly reliable; we're talking about top-level Porsche or Audi or Lamborghini engineering here, so they're not shot after a season; even after two or three seasons.

"You might not realise it watching these machines competing flat-out around Highlands or Hampton Downs, but the race engines are good for 20,000km. They're highly precise engines but they're restricted; they're not screaming at the top end of their limits like a V8 engine, so they require less rebuild work.

"I sell that car on and it's still going to be at the sharp end of things in the Trophy Series next year or the year after that."

Kiwi race fans don't have much longer to wait to see leading manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini and BMW on track.

"We held the first Highlands 101 in 2013 and it was an amazing event," concludes Quinn.

"This year it's going to be a real spectacle, with a bigger field and bigger crowds. And of course, we can't wait for people to come and see the GTs at Hampton Downs.

"We're looking forward to showing race fans what we've done with the place. It's a truly world-class facility now and it's only getting better and better.

"We're so proud of what we've achieved there already. I think people are going to be very impressed."

- NZ Herald

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