McLaren supercar sets lap record in NZ

A McLaren supercar has set the official lap record at New Zealand's newest motorsport facility.

It seemed fitting that a supercar from the now iconic McLaren company, which was founded by New Zealand's Bruce McLaren back in the 1960s, was used to set the $20 million complex's first official lap record.

Kiwi driver Craig Baird was behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 as it roared around Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell in 1min 41.9 secs.

Baird believed he was capable of posting a time in the 1:30s with more time in the car, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Zealand motor racing legend Jim Richards said he was "absolutely staggered with the complex" before opening the facility and taking a ride with park owner Tony Quinn around it in a BMW convertible.

The track, which replicates pieces of other tracks from around the world, was world class, Richards said.

Watch great footage of Craig Baird's record-setting lap around Highland Motorsport Park at the wheel of a McLaren MP4-12C GTC, below:

Vintage race cars, including a 1906 Darracq Grand Prix, driven by Anne Thomson, of Hauraki Plains, and the 1929 Chrysler Racer of Canterbury's Murray Frew, plus a Ford 105E Anglia driven by Stewart Quertier, of Gore, then took to the track, warming up the thousands of people who attended the opening day's racing events.

A rally car demonstration and an Australian legend demonstration was held before a commentary lap by long-time motorsport journalist and former radio talkback host Allan Dick.

Central Otago District Mayor Tony Lepper said the park had been a "good secret" for a while and would attract people from throughout New Zealand.

Using local contractors to build the park worked as "economic filler" for the district, Lepper said.

Quinn said he was often asked why he decided to build the park where it was and not somewhere else.

"There ain't many places that can beat Central Otago," he said.

Southland man Andrew Macinnes said he was amazed to see such a great race track and he hoped it would be used for V8 Supercar competitions.

The Southland Times