He calls himself “a bit of a gentleman driver,” but Anthony Leighs is loving the challenge of racing an Audi R8 GT3 in this year’s North Island Endurance Series.
Leighs is currently tied for second in the one-hour championship after picking up a third and second in the first two rounds.
A Formula Ford racer when he was younger, Leighs took a step away from the competitive side of motorsport when he acknowledged a lack of funds meant he wouldn’t progress much further.
Now a successful business owner, Leighs returned to classic car racing five seasons ago before making the switch to endurance racing.
Together with Paul Kelly in a Porsche 991 Cup Car, Leighs spent three years on the domestic endurance scene, picking up some strong results along the way.
Leighs has teamed up with the Carlyle Performance and Blackbull Markets to steer an Audi R8 GT3 this year – his first drive in a GT3 race car.
“This is my first year in a GT3 car and I am loving every minute of it,” Leighs told Velocity News.
“The Cup car was a great platform to start from, and it helped me step into the GT3 more easily.
“[The Audi] is really stable and responsive. It is on another level, and I am still coming up to speed with the aero.
“This is an opportunity to step up my driving skills and I am enjoying all of it.”
Leighs has only had two race meetings in the Audi and will have two more before the North Island series is out.
But he insists it is too early to judge whether this year is his most enjoyable racing season after the fun he had with Kelly.
“My time in the Cup car with Paul Kelly was a lot of fun,” he said. “I some great seasons racing with him.
“So, it is too hard to say.
“But what I can say, is that I can already see that my time in the Audi is helping me as driver.”
In the opening round at Pukekohe, Leighs finished third and behind John Midgley in the Ford SuperTourer.
Round two at Hampton Downs saw the two swap positions, and Leighs led Midgley home for second.
Their battle has been one of interest, as the grunt of the SuperTourer goes toe-to-toe with the aerodynamic-dependent GT3 machine.
Leighs is relishing his tussle with Midgley but is setting his sights on a second-place finish in the championship.
“I’ve been having a great battle with John Midgley in the SuperTourer, which I have enjoyed,” he said.
“In qualifying, he is a bit quicker than me, but I think I can save the tyres a bit better than him in the race.
“I am keen to close the gap to the McLaren boys a bit over the next two rounds.
“But I think we have had two really good rounds to start with.
“I think if we can finish second in the series, that’d be an accomplishment.”
Leighs is teaming up with Tom Alexander in this year’s South Island Endurance Series, where the duo will tackle the three-hour championship.
“I think there will be a good B class of GT3 cars down there,” Leighs said.
“There should be three or four older generation GT3 cars that we will be racing against.
“So, I am looking forward to that.”
Round three of the North Island Endurance Championship will be in Taupo on June 11-12.
Main Image: Matt Smith