From up-and-coming stars to older drivers back on the track, bouncy castles to high-fiving heroes, Highlands International Motorsport Park, in Cromwell turned on a weekend to thrill everyone.
Highlands hosted the opening round of the Super Sprint Motorsport New Zealand Championship with four classes, each with multiple races. Friday’s practice sessions were followed by two days of qualifying and racing.
Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson, originally from Pukekohe, was there to coach Ryder Quinn, the grandson of Highlands owner Tony Quinn.
Visiting from Australia, the younger Quinn raced in the first round of the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania championship at the weekend.
The series will see him compete on each of his grandfather’s three race tracks — Highlands, Hampton Downs in the Waikato and Taupo Motorsport Park.
Quinn had his best race at that level at the weekend, moving through the field from ninth to an eventual fourth.
It was a long way from Quinn’s memories of riding around the track on a quad bike while it was being developed.
‘‘I’ve probably done more laps on a quad bike around this track than in a race car.’’
He is young — Quinn graduated high school at the end of last year — but he already thinks like a professional sportsman.
His race car is bright pink, his personal car neon yellow and his race›gear base›layer lime green, something Lawson said he had never seen.
‘‘Gotta stand out, it’s good for the sponsors as well,’’ he said.
The Tony Quinn Foundation, which supports young people to make it on the world stage, announced at the weekend it would continue supporting Lawson as he heads back overseas to pursue his F1 dream.
Former F2 driver Marcus Armstrong was there to advise his father Rick, who was driving again after a six›year break.
His advice must have been valuable as Armstrong sen finished with a fourth and a second place, making him third overall in the GT New Zealand category.
Marcus Armstrong leaves New Zealand this week to join the Ganassi IndyCar team alongside fellow New Zealanders Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin. Having access to famous names in the racing world was inspiring for youngsters watching.
William Lines (6) was ecstatic after meeting hero Liam Lawson, his dad Oliver said.
A Highlands staff member had noticed William was wearing a Red Bull F1 team shirt and asked if he wanted to meet Lawson, Mr Lines said.
After the meeting, where William had his photo taken with Lawson, the youngster was brimming with excitement.
‘‘He skipped out saying ‘that was so cool’,’’ Mr Lines said.
Highlands chief executive Josie Spillane said the weekend was incredible.
‘‘There was a sigh of absolute content as the final flag was waved,’’ she said.
‘‘I couldn’t be prouder of the team.’’
Event promoters New Zealand Motorsport had definitely set a stake in the ground showing how it was done, Mrs Spillane said.
American David Morales won the feature race ahead of Austrian Charlie Wurz and 17›year›old Aucklander Liam Sceats. Wurz leads the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania standings after a consistent weekend.
The next round will be at Teretonga, in Invercargill, this weekend.