Highlands to host Aus GT round for final time

The 2016 Highlands Australian Endurance Championship race

November’s Highlands 501 will be the last Australian GT round at the New Zealand South Island circuit.

The development arises due to Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park being granted exclusive rights to Australian GT in New Zealand.

Highlands Motorsport Park, which along with Hampton Downs and Australian GT is owned by Tony Quinn, will instead host “a new event to celebrate Kiwi cars and drivers,” according to a statement issued by the circuit.

Highlands has hosted a long-distance Australian GT event, originally the Highlands 101 referring to distance in laps and this year the Highlands 501 referring to kilometres, since 2013.

The race at Highlands and a similar format introduced at Phillip Island in the same year helped to spawn the revival of the Australian Endurance Championship (AEC) as a separate title within Australian GT last year.

“It’s been a hell of a journey over the last five years,” said Quinn.

“I couldn’t count the number of times people told us you can’t bring a world class motorsport event to the South Island.

“I think we’ve proven over the last five years that it can be done and I’d like to think we’ve changed the landscape of motorsport in New Zealand along the way.

“We brought back the Le Mans start when people told us it was a crazy idea. We made motorsport accessible again by inviting spectators to do a grid walk and get up close and personal to the cars and drivers just before the start of the race, and we opened up the pits to everyone, not just the corporate guests.

“It’s fair to say we’ve had some real highlights over the last five years.”

The news comes after SRO’s announcement of a new GT3 series known as the Asia Pacific 36, which will incorporate a Hampton Downs 12 Hour race alongside the existing Bathurst 12 Hour and Sepang 12 Hour.

Hampton Downs will open the inaugural series, to be run in the southern hemisphere spring/summer, in October 2018, with that event likely to also feature on the AEC calendar.

The final Highlands 501 will take place from November 10-12, a fortnight after the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500.

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