Craig Baird drives Highlands Motorsport Park owner Tony
Quinn's McLaren MP4-12C GT3 to set the first lap record on the new track, in a time of 1.41:9. Photo: Lynda van Kempen
Mecca for motorsport enthusiasts - the $20 million Highlands
Motorsport Park at Cromwell - was opened with few formalities
but masses of action on the track today.
Between 7000 and 8000 people turned up for the first day of
the park's opening festival and drivers and spectators
showered the facility with praise.
The complex covers 88ha, includes a 4.5km track, a 48-garage
Gasoline Alley, a motorsport museum, go-kart track and
Owner Tony Quinn, a self-made multimillionaire based in
Queensland, paid tribute to the work of those who came up
with the idea for the facility, and persevered through the
lengthy resource consent process.
Jim Richards, who was given the honour of cutting the ribbon
to open the track and driving the opening lap, said the park
was ''world class - as good as anything overseas''.
Craig Baird, who drove Tony Quinn's McLaren MP4-12C to set
the first lap record of 1.41:9, agreed with the ''world
class'' tag and said the park ''captured the essence of
''Everyone can enjoy it, from the competitors, to the people
having a wine while they're looking at the action on the
track, to the kids racing around the go-kart track - that's
what it's all about.''
The track was sensational, he said, and it was incredible to
think the entire facility had been built in about a year.
The festival featured laps by about 60 vehicles, from race
cars and rally cars through to a Superkart. Cars as diverse
as an Aston Martin, Porsche, and a 1906 Darracq grand prix
car later gave way to a Ferrari, Datsuns, and a BMW Mini.
Central Otago mayor Tony Lepper said Mr Quinn came to the
Central Otago District Council about a year ago saying ''this
is going to happen''.
''We thought he was the real deal and holy moley, 12 months
later, look at it now.''
The festival continues tomorrow with the official opening of
the motorsport museum on site by Sir Colin Giltrap, and
action throughout the afternoon on the track.