The battle is on for national supremacy; and Liam Lawson has already cemented his mark, lapping under the lap record at Highlands Motorsport Park in just his first day in a saloon race car.
The aspiring Formula 1 driver spent several hours behind the wheel of the Track Tec Racing Audi R8 yesterday at the Cromwell circuit, getting to grips in what in his debut voyage into tin-top racing.
But despite the hurdle of never experiencing the R8 before, Lawson laid all doubt to rest by setting an unofficial lap record. The youngster was behind the wheel for over three hours lapping the 4.1km circuit
Track Tec Racing is remaining coy on the exact times Lawson was setting and were unable to comment on the test session. However, should Lawson be able to lap consistently at his reported record-breaking pace then he should be a real threat for securing the national endurance three-hour title.
The 18-year-old did reiterate his excitement for his debut GT race, however.
“I am super excited to have the opportunity to race such a cool car at my favourite race track in the world,” he said.
“Some of my [single-seater] teammates over the years have raced GT3 cars and told me how cool they are. I’m so looking forward to it.”
Lawson’s teammate, Scott O’Donnell, was behind the wheel of the newest-spec R8 at the final round of the South Island endurance series in Timaru.
Partnered with international GT ace Andrew Waite, the pair were able to finish third overall, fending off a determined Brendon Leitch in the older-generation Dayle ITM R8 in the race’s closing stages. With an advantage of over 50bhp, the current-gen R8s will again likely have the performance over their older rivals.
Defending New Zealand three-hour endurance champions Jonny Reid and Neil Foster will likely emerge as Lawson’s and O’Donnell’s biggest threats.
Reid and Foster are fresh off a win at Timaru, and the high-downforce nature of Highlands Motorsport should make the Audi contingent the favourites ahead of the hotly contested battle for victory.
The fourth Audi in the field will be the International Motorsport entry of Andrew Fawcett and Sam Fillmore. They finished second overall in the North Island series.
Other entries in the top GT E class include the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 of Alex Riberas and Darren Kelly. Given Riberas’ FIA gold driver rating and Kelly’s rapid adaption to the GT racing scene, the reigning South Island endurance champion will also be in within a possible shot of clinching the national title.
Representing the North Island as the incumbent series champions are Glenn Smith and John de Veth in the SBT Motorsport McLaren 650s GT3.
Four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy will team up with Dwayne Carter in the new-generation Mercedes AMG GT3.
John McIntyre and car-owner Simon Gilbertson will be out to make amends for a dogged South Island campaign which saw plenty of promise in their GT Chevrolet Camaro dashed by ill-fated reliability and on-track incidents.
This year’s three-hour endurance championship will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 5 this Saturday with the race set to get underway from 1 pm.