It's looking like November's Highlands 101 endurance race is set for a shake up with V8 Supercar driver Craig Lowndes jumping into the Chev Camaro of Inky Tulloch.
The front-running Holden-driver isn’t the only V8 Supercar driver taking on the gruelling event, as rival Shane Van Gisbergen is also tackling the race, driving a McLaren GT3 with Australian GT Championship driver Klark Quinn.
The Kiwi star and the Aussie champ are both entered for the 101-lap enduro, the feature race of the Highlands 101 event running over the weekend of November 8–9 on the Central Otago circuit.
Lowndes is excited to race at Highlands for the first time and to pilot the wild-looking Camaro GT3-spec race car.
“One of my biggest reasons for doing the event is to get to race on the Highlands track,” says Lowndes. “It looks awesome, I’ve heard great things about it and I can’t wait to get there. Learning new tracks is both challenging and fun, I am looking forward to it.”
Not only will the event be the first time for Lowndes at the track, but it also marks the first time Tulloch’s Camaro has been on the track as well. Tulloch says he’s really looking forward to having a professional of Lowndes’ ability in the car.
“The early form of the Camaro has been promising, but we’re still working through some of the ‘new car’ gremlins,” says Tulloch, who was leading a recent endurance event in Christchurch before a sudden and unexpected mechanical failure.
“Craig is an outstanding driver with outstanding technical ability to get the best out of any car, so I’m looking forward to racing with Craig and seeing him help uncover the true potential of the Camaro.”
Lowndes is also happy to have been asked to drive the Camaro. “It’s a new car to the category and I haven’t even seen it yet. But it’s got a good pedigree, and on paper it looks very competitive. It’s a GM product and it’s quite different from the GT cars I’ve raced previously.”
In regards to the Highlands 101 race format with its running start for one of a team’s two drivers, Lowndes says, “We haven’t had a chance to think about who’ll start in the car or who’ll be running yet. It’ll be up to Ian, so maybe we’ll just toss a coin! I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Van Gisbergen has the advantage over Lowndes of having previously raced at Highlands and also having raced the GT3-spec McLaren MP4 12C with Tony and Klark Quinn in February’s Bathurst 12-Hour Race, where he set a new lap record for ‘tin-tops’ at the Mount Panorama circuit.
The Gold Coast-based Kiwi says the Highlands circuit is fun in every car he’s driven there.
“I have visited Highlands a few times now and have driven a number of cars around there. I watched the 101 from the commentary box last year; it’s a different format to most GT races with the Le Mans-style start, so that should be fun too!” says Van Gisbergen.
“The McLaren is awesome to drive — I love driving GT cars so I’m certainly looking forward to having another go. Klark is a really good driver and, although the seat needs to go quite a way forward for him, in the racing we have done together so far, we have been competitive so I hope we can have a go at getting top step of the podium!”