Highlands’ unique endurance race start returns
Highlands Motorsport Park will make a significant nod to motorsport’s rich history with the 21st Century equivalent of the traditional “Le Mans’ start for its forthcoming 10th Anniversary 6 Hour Enduro.
The format for the start which Highlands will use for the race on November 5th is unique in world motorsport and will be another attraction for teams and fans in what is shaping up to be the biggest and best endurance race in New Zealand in decades.
The Le Mans start – so called because it was first utilised in the famous French 24 Hour race – was standard practice for many years in a variety of major – and minor – motorsport events throughout the world for decades.
In the days before automatic lights systems, the official starter would wave a flag to start the race, and drivers would sprint from one side of the track to the other where their cars were parked awaiting them. They would climb in, put their seatbelts on, start their engines and race off.
Even back in the later decades of the last century, however, the practice was deemed to be incredibly dangerous, specifically because drivers often rushed the process of securing their seatbelts.
It all came to an end in 1969 – at Le Mans – when young Belgian Jacky Ickx decided to walk casually to his car instead of running at the start in a protest on safety grounds. Taking time to secure everything properly, he left the start effectively in last place, but went on to win nonetheless.
“Our procedure is different to the original format of course, and is perfectly safe, but the unique start format we have created pays homage to the greatest endurance race in the world, Le Mans,” said Highlands circuit owner Tony Quinn. “Equally as important for us and for the fans, it adds another dimension of competitiveness and entertainment to our own race format.
The 10th Anniversary Six Hour race start will have drivers designated to begin the gruelling race behind the wheel already, but their co-drivers are the ones who have the “privilege’ of the run along the front of the terrace in front of the race fans approximately 250 metres form their cars at the entrance to the circuit pit lane.
At the signal, the co-drivers will run the 250 metres in their racing overalls and remove a Velcro tie off the back of their car to signal to their team the car is cleared to start.
“It does add another dynamic,” added Quinn. “Drivers are competitive animals and if there’s an opportunity to get to the front of the field quickly, you can guarantee that they’ll take it, and that will include making sure the co-driver can cover that 250 metre run as fast as possible, so we expect there will be plenty of training and preparation going on long before the weekend.
“The fans also love it too and that’s a big part of what we are aiming to do with this race – competitive motorsport that is packed with entertainment from start to finish.”
Key Facts – Highlands 6 Hour Enduro
Celebrating: The 10th anniversary of Highlands Motorsport Park
Dates: November 3rd, 4th and 5th 2023 – 6 Hour Endurance Race – Sunday 5th
Support categories and events: NAPA Central Muscle Cars, Aussie Race Cars, One Hour Endurance
Tickets: Available from https://www.highlands.co.nz/events/highlands-6-hour-enduro
Kids: 16 and under free