California-based Kiwi driver, Matt Halliday has a motor racing resume to be proud of. He’s best known for his exploits in Black Beauty in the A1GP Series but the 38-year-old has also driven with some success in Indy Lights, Porsche Carrera Cup, the Champ Car World Series and V8 Supercars.
Halliday’s focus in recent years has turned to GT endurance racing and he’s confident he can be competitive in his debut in the Australian Endurance Championship at the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500 next weekend (October 28-29).
“I don’t doubt what I can do in a race car,” says Halliday. “I’ll be as quick as anybody. I’ve been on the podium for the last three years at the Bathurst 12-Hour in the Pro-Am category and we’ve got a good car and a good team for Hampton Downs.”
Halliday will team up with Andrew Bagnall in an Audi R8 LMS, one of three entries from Auckland team International Motorsport in the 500 kilometre endurance race. Bagnall and Halliday impressed in their last outing together, winning round two of the South Island Endurance in Christchurch last month.
“Andrew did a fantastic job,” says Halliday. “He goes well for a 70-year-old and it’s very, very impressive that he’s still putting himself to the test like this. He’s twice my age and he’s still racing and still doing a bloody good job.”
“In Pro-Am races like the Hampton Downs 500, it generally comes down to the amateur driver,” says Halliday. “My main focus is to work with the amateur driver and get them up to speed as quickly as possible. When I was younger, it would have been all about me. I would have been worried about my performance and what I needed to do to win. You’ll never win Pro-Am races like that. You’ve got to fine tune the car setup for the amateur driver and give them most of the practice laps.”
“The Audi is a great piece of kit and a simple and reliable car compared to some of the other cars on the grid. I’ve done the last three Bathurst 12-Hour races in an Audi so it’s a car I know well. It’s one of the best handling cars in the category but it doesn’t have the same straight line speed as a Ferrari or a McLaren. That’s what makes GT racing interesting. GT racing is about the big picture. You’ve got to maximise the package you’ve got.”
Halliday is hoping to have another crack at the Bathurst 12-Hour in February, 2018 and he’s also eyeing up a drive in next year’s Blancpain Asia Pacific 36 series which will bring together the Sepang 12-Hour, the Bathurst 12-Hour and a new race, the Hampton Downs 12-Hour.
“GT3 racing is one of the biggest categories in the world right now,” says Halliday. “It’s up there with Formula 1 or NASCAR and I think it’s the most viable and competitive category right now. You can race GT cars anywhere in the world and it’s a very equal and level playing field with the balance of performance regulations. One weekend it might be a Ferrari at the front of the field, the next weekend the track might suit an Audi or a Mercedes or a Porsche. That’s why every major manufacturer is involved in GT3 racing right now. And the technology that is developed in GT racing is much more relevant and understandable to the average motorsport fan. The stuff that is going on in Formula 1 has no relevance to road cars. GT racing just makes a lot more sense.”
The two New Zealand rounds of the Australian Endurance Championship at Hampton Downs and Highlands (November 11-12) were a welcome excuse for Halliday to race again in New Zealand.
“There’s been nothing for me to drive in for the last few years which is a shame because I really enjoy getting back to New Zealand. Now GT racing has got a foothold in New Zealand which is great. Tony Quinn has done a fantastic job and it’s great to have these two new tracks. He’s put a ton of money into New Zealand motorsport which is amazing. I’ve never raced at Hampton Downs or Highlands so I’m really looking forward to it.”