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"I love McLarens. They’re just really cool."
He was one of thousands of spectators to get close to 23 GT cars at the Highlands 101 grid walk at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell yesterday. Drivers parked their vehicles on the track shortly before the event’s signature endurance race started on the last of its two main days.
Then the gates to the track were opened and the crowd descended, including children, who had the rare chance to see their dream brands up close.
Marshall walked past high-performance engines until his eyes locked on the McLaren 650s GT3 of Australian GT driver Klark Quinn.
"That is awesome," he said.
His brother James (10), meanwhile, was scanning the track for his favoured Aston Martins.
When asked what it was about the cars they liked, the boys had two short answers: speed and noise.
Another Wanaka boy, Jack Wyeth (10), said he was on the lookout for Ferraris.
"I’ve never seen one in person before."
Quinn said the grid walk was a "special thing to be a part of".
"I think it’s part of the reason people keep coming back."
Event director Mike Sentch said the Highlands 101 would "be in real trouble" if it stopped the grid walk.
"It was fantastic to see. We do it at Highlands every year, and it’s something you don’t usually get to see. The kids looking around, meeting the drivers, looking in the cars."
He did not know the attendance numbers but said the turnout was the event’s biggest yet. Past events have attracted about 25,000 people. During the weekend, spectators were treated to four different racing categories, plus other attractions such as the drifting skills of Aucklander "Mad" Mike Whiddett.