Grass roots motorsport has a new home in the Bay of Plenty following the opening of a new autocross circuit last weekend.
Part of the 360-hectare Te Matai Motorsport complex within the TECT All Terrain Park, the dirt surface track measures nearly 1km in length with a combination of challenging corners and elevation changes lined by tyre barriers and dirt berms.
It was used for a pursuit-style autocross on Sunday which attracted 42 competitors mainly from Tauranga and Rotorua with vehicles ranging from top level 4WD turbo rally machines to standard road cars.
Chris Flegg slides his Hillman Imp around the new autocross track.
The track has been constructed over the past 12 months in forest area that was clear-felled at the end of last year. Motorsport BOP and Rotorua Car Club members have put thousands of hours of work into lining the track with several thousand used tyres.
The track can be used in either direction for autocross events with regular monthly events being planned over the coming summer.
The design layout of the circuit — the 16-metre track width and the length of the start straight — conform to the requirements for an FIA-approved international rallycross track. Longer term plans include the construction of a race control tower and tarsealing a section of the track so that rallycross events can be staged.
Tyre barriers line the corners at the new autocross track.
The autocross track is the latest addition to facilities within the Te Matai Motorsport precinct of the TECT All Terrain Park which is located between Tauranga and Rotorua on State Highway 36.
Radio control racing circuits, a 4km gravel loop for rallysprints and rally car testing and a hard surface driving training and pit area are already established in the motorsport zone while plans for a speedway practice track and an international standard drag strip are currently being explored.
Sunday’s inaugural autocross event saw the fastest three-lap run being achieved being set by New Zealand Rally Championship runner-up Phil Campbell (Tauranga) driving his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 (top photo).
Rotorua's Steve Cox in action with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Hillclimb Special.
‘‘I had spent a couple of days up there with my digger filling up the tyres so it was cool to see it all come together and get to drive on the track for the first time,’’ said Campbell.
‘‘It will be a lot of fun in any kind of car and I think the faster you go the more challenging it will become.
‘‘Spectators can see a lot of the track and there are some places where the cars are going sideways over a crest which is spectacular but without the same level of risk as doing that on a forest road.
‘‘I’m looking forward to more events up there and seeing the potential of the track develop.’’
Campbell clocked a 2m 25.81s effort on his third timed run to win the event ahead of Rotorua’s Phil Jones (Lancer Evo) who recorded 2m 32.98s. Rotorua’s Steve Cox — driving the spectacular Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8 special that was originally built for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in the United States by Aucklander Andrew Hawkeswood — finished third.
The next event on the Motorsport BOP calendar is a day-night sprint on October 24 using the gravel road loop at the TECT All Terrain Park. The daytime competition starts at 4pm with night runs from 8.30pm.
Motorsport BOP Inaugural Autocross at TECT All Terrain Park — results: 1 Phil Campbell (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 2m 25.81s 2 Phil Jones (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4) 2m 32.98s 3 Steve Cox (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8 Special) 2m 37.28s 4 John Bouzaid (Subaru Impreza RXi) 2m 39.54s 5 Ian Wood (Toyota Corolla Turbo) 2m 39.94s 6 Mike Torr (Subaru Impreza WRX) 2m 42.60s 7 Heath Phillips (Subaru Impreza WRX) 2m 44.16s 8 Matt Peters (Subaru Impreza WRX) 2m 46.00s 9 Jay Pittams (Datsun 1200 SSS) 2m 46.34s 10 Shane Wright (Nissan Skyline) 2m 46.37s