NZGP highlight of action-packed schedule

New Zealand Grand Prix action will be fast and furious at Highlands this weekend. PHOTO: TAYLER...
New Zealand Grand Prix action will be fast and furious at Highlands this weekend. PHOTO: TAYLER BURKE
Cromwell is without question the place to be for motorsport fans this weekend.

Highlands Motorsport Park is hosting the 68th New Zealand Grand Prix alongside the transtasman V8 decider.

It is the first time the track with the developing reputation has hosted the GP, and it will welcome a large international contingent contesting the sixth round of the New Zealand super sprint championship.

Future F1 hopefuls will line up in the premier wings-and-slicks Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championships, while 16 thundering V8s will contest the transtasman TA2 muscle car challenge.

While the two-round V8 event is led by Australian driver Nathan Herne, 18-year-old Kiwi Ben Stewart tilted the balance to make this weekend’s decider a nail-biter.

The overall winner receives the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy.

Seventeen drivers will line up for Sunday’s New Zealand Grand Prix in the Toyota category for the fifth and championship deciding round.

Poland star Roman Bilinski leads the series, while New Zealand driver Liam Sceats is second, 56 points adrift with three races left.

First contested in 1950, the New Zealand Grand Prix has been held at a variety of locations and has some of the world’s greats etched into its roll of honour, including Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Chris Amon, Keke Rosberg, Ken Smith and Shane van Gisbergen.

The weekend’s schedule also includes the 21-strong Toyota 86 Championship series.

Hawke’s Bay youngster Tom Bewley reclaimed the championship lead at last weekend’s round in Christchurch and returns to Highlands with a slender 13-point advantage.

Eighteen cars will front for the GT New Zealand Championship.

Rick Armstrong (Porsche 992) and Brock Gilchrist (McLaren 570s) shape as favourites in their respective classes. Each has heated competition, with the main contenders in the open section being a mix of Mercedes AMGs and Porsches.

It is also a double-header for the Mazda Racing Series with a grid of 30 mainly RX8s adding to the atmosphere.

Car buffs will look forward to seeing the Camaro van Gisbergen and Richie Stanaway drove to victory at Bathurst last year, along with Highlands owner Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin Vulcan and the 2006 Audi Sport DTM car at the hands of New Zealand motorsport great Greg Murphy.

Each category has practice sessions tomorrow.

Qualifying and racing starts on Saturday and continues until Sunday afternoon, the weekend concluding with the New Zealand Grand Prix from 4.48pm.