2014 Highlands 101 Australian star Craig Lowndes pre race grid walk photo John Morris AGT

About the Highlands 101

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The Highlands 101

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The 101 race format – a 101 lap endurance race – was first developed for the inaugural Highlands 101 in 2013 when Highlands’ owner Tony Quinn wanted to create a race that rivalled the famed Bathurst 1000.

CK4E6072 101 Start

Start of the 2014 Highlands 101. Photo: Euan Cameron

The Highlands 101 is now the feature race of an event of the same name. It sees up to 42 race cars and two drivers per car take to the track for a three-and-a-bit hour long all-out battle to win the spectacular Highlands’ Claymore trophy.

The idea of 101 laps delivered a race length of approximately three to three-and-a-half hours on the 4.1km Highlands GT circuit – definitely a test even for GT3-spec race cars which are built for endurance racing. The refreshed approach to the Le Mans running start (see below) was added to the mix to make the race more entertaining for fans and challenging for team strategy. Then there are the compulsory pit stops (CPS) which feature in all Australian GT (AGT) Championship races along with the mix of amateur and professional race drivers – there sure is a lot going on during the race for teams and fans to follow!

The 2015 Highlands 101 represents the third edition of the 101 at Highlands. The first two editions were won by Highlands’ owner Tony Quinn in his Aston Martin Vantage GT3 co-driven by Kiwi V8 race star Fabian Coulthard in 2013 and Australian V8 Supercar championship winner Garth Tander in 2014.

2014 Highlands 101 podium LR

The 2014 Highlands 101 podium (L-R) Second-placed Nathan Antunes and Rod Salmon (Audi); winners Tony Quinn and Garth Tander (Aston Martin); third-placed Justin McMillian and Steven Richards (Lamborghini). Photo: John Morris

The 101 format has also been adopted at the AGT’s Phillip Island round last season where Quinn and Tander again took victory. This season the Phillip Island 101 attracted the biggest AGT field ever – 35 cars – in the championship’s history and delivered a new winning driver combination in the form of current AGT championship leader German racer and Nurburgring 24 Hour winner Christopher Mies and co-driver Greg Crick. However Quinn and Tander were second in Quinn’s new McLaren 650S GT3.

This year the Highlands 101 uses the qualifying system adopted for this season’s AGT season. Two 20-minute qualifying sessions will run on Sunday morning, one for each nominated driver in each car. The starting grid will be determined by taking the fastest time for each car from these sessions.

So what do the teams have to take into account when planning their race strategy?

  • First, there’s the decision on which driver will start in the car and which one will contest the running race. If your fastest runner is also your fastest driver who you want to complete the larger proportion of laps, do you sacrifice early on-track position for lower lap times for around 55% of the race?
  • Each driver can race for a maximum of 60 of the 101 lap race duration.
  • Each team must make two pit stops. A car like the Aston Martin requires two pit stops for fuel and tyres, whereas a Porsche 997 GT3 could probably do the whole race with one pit stop if they were allowed to refuel and change tyres and drivers all in one pit stop (which they’re not – see following).
  • A pit stop can involve two operations only, i.e. refuelling and a driver change, or changing tyres and drivers, but not all three operations in one stop, or a penalty will apply.
  • A minimum pit stop duration is specified for each team based on a formula which takes into account the driver’s professional ranking and the car’s outright pace. This regulation is based on a similar pit stop regulation used in the Australian GT Championship races. The minimum pit stop duration can vary from 75 seconds for professionally-ranked drivers like Christopher Mies and Jono Lester to around 30 seconds for a non-professional driver.


MOTOR HOME FACILITIES ON-SITE

We are working closely with the Motor Caravan Association and are pleased to announce there will be a dedicated area for self contained motor homes at the Highlands 101 event. For more information, please visit click here.

 

The Le Mans-style running start

A modern take on the famed Le Mans running start is a key feature of the Highlands 101 race format.

Muscat Lester run Highlands 101 start

Richard Muscat (Erebus Motorsport) races Jono Lester (Trass Family Motorsport), 2014 Highlands 101 race start. Photo: John Morris

When designing the original Highlands 101 race in 2013, Highlands’ owner Tony Quinn wanted an entirely new race format and part of that was a modern twist on the Le Mans-style start.

Used during the early days of the Le Mans 24 Hour race in France, this start sees the cars were lined up, angle-parked on one side of the circuit with their noses pointing slightly in the direction of the race. The drivers lined up on the opposite side of the circuit, directly across from their cars. When the flag dropped, the drivers would run across the track to their cars, climb in, start it, and race off as fast as they could – often without fastening their seat belts which obviously had potential safety implications.

Mandatory, modern day safety items – six-point harnesses and HANS devices – naturally prevent an exact replica of the traditional Le Mans start, but the Highlands 101 and now the Phillip Island 101 feature a modified version which is a blend of a foot race between runners who dash to their car when the start signal is given and a ‘land rush’ start where all the race cars are lined up side-by-side on the circuit.

A Highlands 101 newbie last year, Ferrari driver Jono Lester says he regards the Le Mans-style start as a lot of fun. “But at the same time, it negates any real point of qualifying well. On the plus side, being young and fit certainly helps when you’re sprinting down pit lane in your overalls!”

Well-known Australian race driver Andrew Miedecke is racing with his V8 ute-racing son George in the 2015 Highlands 101 in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in which Quinn has won this race twice before – originally with Fabian Coulthard and last year with Garth Tander. The Aston is now prepared and run by legendary expat Kiwi team owner Ross Stone and the team will be making their debut at Highlands at this event. Miedecke says he likes the concept of the running start. “Especially as I have a very fit son who should win his sprint! With my height – I’m 6' 5” – I’ve got a fair bit of pace when I get moving so I’m looking forward to gaining a competitive advantage there. Anything that could help us is good as far as I’m concerned!”

How it works:

  • Each car in the Highlands 101 can be entered with two drivers for the 101-lap, around three-and-a-half hour race.
  • Competitors have a 25 minute qualifying session in which their quickest driver set their fastest possible lap time to decide the starting order.
  • Pole position (P1) is at the base of the Highlands control tower and cars will be parked at a 45 degree angle in their qualifying order all the way along pit lane from P1 to place 42 at the pit entrance.
  • The driver nominated to start the race will be ready, harnessed in the car and the engine running.
  • Each team’s co-driver will form up along the outside of the pit lane entry wall about four metres apart, giving each one a 250 metre run to their car.
  • Each car has a tag velcroed to its rear wing – when the runner reaches the car, they pull the tag off and hold it up in the air.
  • Each team’s manager is positioned across pit lane, in line with their car. When they see the tag held aloft, they indicate to their driver that they are good to go.
  • Even though they’re now ‘racing’, the driver must comply with the pit lane speed rule of 40 km/h and can only accelerate to race speed once they have exited pit lane safely.
  • Drive-through penalties apply for leaving with the tag still on the car, the runner taking off early and for any incidents in pit lane due to unsafe departure by the driver.