Highlands rivalry 'friendly'

Leading the Highlands Motorsport Park staff scoreboard for the South Island Endurance Series...
Leading the Highlands Motorsport Park staff scoreboard for the South Island Endurance Series after the first round is professional driver Andrew Waite (left). Track owner Tony Quinn (middle) and his driving partner, track operations manager Damon Leitch, are lagging behind after a DNF. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ HIGHLANDS MOTORSPORT PARK
There are many perks to being a professional driver at Highlands Motorsport Park and Andrew Waite and Damon Leitch have certainly got it good tomorrow.

They both represent the pro side of the professional/amateur equation that makes up many of the teams entered in the South Island Endurance Series (SIES), which is hosted on their home track. Competing in the three-hour race, they will share the steering wheels of two eye-wateringly fast supercars, with their respective teams.

Waite will join Track Tec Racing in an Audi R8 GT3 Evo, owned by the Christchurch-based Chapman family. Along with team-mates Dale Chapman and Queenstown's Marc Doran, Waite finished second at the SIES' opening round a fortnight ago at Invercargill's Teretonga Park.

An experienced racer, Waite said he had been fortunate to drive a McLaren and an Aston Martin in recent years, but the Audi was a new marque for him.

"They [supercars] all have their unique characteristics, but once you've driven one, you can adapt to them pretty quickly."

Leitch has recently added track operations manager to his job description and tomorrow he joins the Cromwell circuit's owner, Tony Quinn, in his Aston Martin GT3.

The duo were on course for victory at Teretonga, only to be thwarted by the gearbox blowing up, forcing them to retire with less than 40 minutes remaining.

While there was no performance pressure from Quinn, there were certain expectations, Leitch said.

"As long as I bring the car back in one piece that's his only real concern."

As for the workplace rivalry between him and Waite, Leitch said it was definitely "friendly".

"We are both just out there to enjoy ourselves and have a bit of fun."

The Highlands drivers will have some stiff competition in their race from first round winners and current New Zealand Endurance champions Neil Foster and Jonny Reid (Audi R8). The Chev Camaro GT3 of John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson is ultra-fast when it is going well, while the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Ben Byers and sole female driver Christina Orr-West was third at Teretonga and will be looking for a repeat podium.

The SIES category battles are always fierce and expect Class B competitors Queenstown's Barry Moore and Dunedin driver Tim Mackersy to be quick in their recently-revamped Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.

In Class A, Dunedin brothers Arron and Stu Black will seek to back up their first round win in their BMW E46 WTC.

They will be among the 37 cars entered for the three-hour race that gets under way at 1.40pm.

The one-hour race has 40 entrants, who will line up on the grid at 11.30am.

Round one winners, Timaru bothers Johnny and Chris Small (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup) know they have a tough task ahead to double-up their success on a circuit they have yet to race on.

"The competition at Teretonga was extremely close, particularly with Jarrod Owens, Scott O'Donnell, Allan Dippie and a couple of others, and we expect it again," Small said.

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