There are plenty of circuits around the world which provide great racing. Some, like Highlands Motorsports Park located on New Zealand’s south island just outside of Queenstown in Cromwell, also have a stunning backdrop.
If you’re traveling from Queenstown, the road to Highlands Motorsports Park is almost as entertaining as the venue itself with plenty of twists and turns and of course stunning scenery. Be sure to save your best ‘race mode’ for the circuit though!
Upon entering the grounds you’re greeted with wonderful and playful landscaping, although I’m not sure where the dinosaurs fit in. A nod to Sam Neil’s part in Jurassic Park? Perhaps an attempt to make it interesting for the whole family as there is also a small mini golf section. There’s a cafe serving food and drink giving a brilliant overview of the circuit should you want to be a casual observer.
A museum of race and road cars is just one of the attractions including a rare Aston Martin Vulcan, one of only 24 in the world. It would be great to see the museum section moved to a larger location allowing each car a bit more space so that you could take it all in from any angle. Right now it feels closer to a personal garage collection than anything like the levels of the Petersen Museum in LA, which is not a bad thing.
If you’re just into driving and riding, there’s enough to do here to keep you wanting more. If you really want to be close to the action, head down to turn 10/11 and you’ll get a great feel for the ferocity at which modern GT3 spec cars can fire out of corners. We witnessed one of Highland Motorsports Parks drive experiences taking place in a McLaren which appeared to be a few flying laps. The noise emanating from the McLaren was good. Loud, but not exactly sonorous. It didn’t matter though, as the experience for the passenger is all about speed and at this circuit drivers can generate a lot of it with some amazing sweepers and enough straights to redline regularly.
One thing is hard to ignore: the backdrop is one of the world’s best. Snow capped mountains and greenery would have you believe you’re in Austria or Europe somewhere. The location is spot on.
Just off to the side is a brilliant karting circuit designed for the general public. It’s wonderfully done and kept which makes a world of difference to the experience.
If there’s one thing I’d like to see changed on the circuit itself is for it be a little more motorcycle friendly as there is little or no runoff on the outside on a few of the corners. Circuits need to be more inclusive to all kinds of motorsport, not just touring or GT3 cars.
But all you need to do is put your head up and have a look around. This is an incredible place and our gratitude goes to Tony Quinn for stumping up the cash to build this amazing place in an amazing location.