A brace of victories for McLaren GT factory driver Shane Van Gisbergen with teammate Klark Quinn saw the 650S GT3 secure the coveted Highlands 101 title at the Australian GT season finale weekend which took place at Highlands Motorsport Park, New Zealand. With victory in the weekend’s opening race, followed by the win in the three hour endurance race, Van Gisbergen secured his first wins on home soil with the 650S GT3.
The first race of the weekend saw Van Gisbergen and Quinn qualify the Darrell Lea McLaren on the front row, narrowly missing pole position by just 0.044 seconds. A strong start by Quinn saw the Australian take the lead, which he held until a racing incident further down the field close to half-distance brought out the Safety Car. With the race neutralised, teams looked to optimise race strategies with almost the entire field pitting for the compulsory stop. Despite the best efforts of the team Van Gisbergen dropped to second, but the McLaren GT factory driver, spurred on by the support of the home crowd, set about chasing down the leader. Van Gisbergen was quickly up to speed around the 4.1km circuit, and was almost immediately challenging for the lead. The local star waited patiently for an opportunity, executing a clean pass and with a clear track ahead, extended the lead in the final laps to secure his first Australian GT victory.
The result from the race determined the grid for the second championship race of the weekend, so saw the 650S GT3 on pole position. Despite a strong start, deployment of the Safety Car saw the hard-earned seven second lead reduced to nothing. As the order settled after the pitstop window, the New Zealand/Australian pairing was in fourth place and, despite the best efforts, they were unable to secure the final podium position, crossing the line fourth.
The second victory of the weekend saw Van Gisbergen in an intense three-car battle during the closing stages of the Highlands 101 race. Starting from fourth, Quinn maintained position during a hectic opening stint, ensuring the #37 650S GT3 remained in contention going in to the second half of the three hour endurance race. Quick work by the team saw Van Gisbergen emerge from the pitlane in third, and two Safety Car periods saw the field closed up for the final sprint to the finish with the new Zealander sitting in second place. With continued pressure on the leader, Van Gisbergen was in the perfect position as he made a well-timed move to take the lead with two laps remaining. From here, the McLaren GT factory driver maintained the gap to the chasing pack to claim a famous victory at the Highlands Motorsport Park.
Shane van Gisbergen, factory driver, McLaren GT
‘A fantastic weekend all-in-all. The car felt strong during every session, and it was a great feeling to be on the podium with a McLaren in New Zealand for my first Australian GT win. Klark [Quinn] and the team did a brilliant job throughout, and we were unlucky with the result in race 2, but otherwise a faultless weekend. The Highlands 101 is one of the most exciting races to be part of, and the battle for the lead in the closing stages was one of the best I have ever had. A double podium was a great result for the hard work by everyone, and a huge congratulations and thank you must go to the team.’
Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director, McLaren GT
‘The 650S GT3 proved itself again this weekend at Highlands Motorsport Park, with two further victories. The team did a faultless job all weekend, and Shane and Klark showing the true pace of the car. They were unlucky with the Safety Car which prevented what would have certainly been a podium, but that’s racing. The Highlands 101 is the headline event of the Highlands Motorsport Park calendar, and the grid was extremely competitive – highlighted by just how close the battle was for pole position. Congratulations to the team on another great weekend.’
These latest results mark the 22nd and 23rd wins of the season for the McLaren 650S GT3, equalling the success seen by its predecessor, the 12C GT3, during its competitive debut season in 2013.