My Need for Speed

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The Radical and Mustang at Highlands Motorsport Park

Day 39 Cornwell – TeAnau

A day I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. Today I’m in Cromwell, a 50min drive west of Queenstown. I stayed the night at a nice freedom camp on the edge of Lake Dunstan, with the sun climbing up its time to head just a few minutes down the road to Highlands Motorsport park. This is where you come if you have a bit of a need for speed, which I do. The park has a full 4.1km racing circuit, go-karts, sculpture park, Museum and a café.

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They offer several different ways to see the track, the course Taxi which is a Porsche Cayenne turbo so not your usual taxi ride, A fast dash around the track in a McLaren 650s weapon of a machine with you as a passenger, or a self-drive where you get to drive a Radical or V8 Mustang race car. I’ve chosen to drive the Radical SR3 for 7 laps around one of the tracks.

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I check in at reception and was soon taken by one of New Zealand up and coming racing car drivers Brendon Leitch, over to the pits to get suited and booted. A quick briefing and then over to the rocket ship on wheels. This car is like a Le Mans style car, purposely built for the track, dry weight of 570kg with a Suzuki 1.3l motorcycle engine in the back producing 210 horsepower giving it a top speed of 250kph (155mph). Can hear Tim the tool man Taylor from Home Improvement in the background.

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Brendon gets me belted into the car before he jumps in and we are off. The adrenaline levels rising and the grin on my face getting bigger. We set off around the track to the section we are going to be playing around on. The first lap is just a slow lap, Brendon giving me pointers on braking spots, turn ins and apexes for the corners. As we come around for the second lap my foot was flat to the floor, still taking it easy around the corners getting use to the car. By the third lap I was just focused on going faster, Brendon helping with little tips, braking later and later, getting faster each lap. I was loving life feeling the speed and the gforces in the corners.  Then Brendon’s hand went up, it was over, 7 laps done already, I was gutted, i had been so focused on driving a wasnt even counting the laps and this lap was going to be my fastest. I wanted to do this all day and was only getting use to the car. But it had to come to an end, Back to the pits.

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That smile didn’t come off my face all day. After we get the car back to pits and the racing kit off, I head back over to the office, next I checkout the Museum. The Highlands national motorsport museum has a bit of everything in it, cars, bikes, trucks and even a boat. Cars like the 1991 Benetton F1 car that Michael Schumacher got his first ever F1 points in, the racing Ford Mondeo of New Zealand Paul Radisich, A replica of the winning Ford Gt40 of the 1966 Lemans race that Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon won, Inky Tullochs CAT racing truck and the 1964 ENZED Fiat bambina just to name a few. Upstairs is where they have write ups about past and present New Zealand Racing legends, from Jim Richards, Greg murphy, to the New Zealand F1 drivers of Bruce McLaren, Denis Hulme, Chris Amon and Howden Ganley, to my home town Rally Legend Possum Bourne. Great bit of motorsport history here.

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I stop off at the café for a bit of lunch at the end of my walk around, then head of to tonight’s destination of Te Anau, 215km away. Spend the rest of the afternoon dreaming of a race car and trying to drive to the Kiwi Holiday Park. The trip is very windy and the rain had set in, so not many chances of photos on the way down. After checking in I just stayed around camp for the rest of the night. Tomorrow I’m off on a day trip to a place that still looks the same as the rest of NZ did hundreds of years ago.

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