Rallycross is set to make a high-profile return to the New Zealand motorsport calendar with an international event planned for Mt Maunganui's ASB Baypark Stadium next year.
Longtime motorsport promoter Ron Dixon -- father of IndyCar champion Scott -- has announced plans for an under-lights rallycross spectacular at Baypark over the weekend of February 27-28.
Dixon is partnering with Bay Venues Ltd and Motorsport BOP in the two-day event which would use a 1.5km track with a mixed surface and feature a series of quickfire heat races leading to a final.
Dixon says circuit and stadium-based rallycross events have gained huge followings in Europe and North America in recent years and he's aiming to bring the intense action of international rallycross to the Baypark venue.
Rallycross sees fields of between six and 10 cars racing on a specially prepared circuit, combining both tarseal and gravel sections along with jumps and other obstacles. It has boomed in Europe and North America recently and Australia is now reintroducing the sport.
"Rallycross was developed in Europe several decades ago as a faster-paced, more spectator-friendly alternative to traditional rallying," said Dixon.
"It's now recognised at the highest level with its own FIA World Rallycross Championship with Petter Solberg -- a former WRC driver who is hugely popular with New Zealanders -- winning the inaugural World Rallycross title in 2014."
Rallycross events were staged in New Zealand from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s at several race circuit venues, most prominently on a purpose-built track at Mystery Creek. Interest in the sport is now being rekindled with a rallycross track under construction at the Highlands Motorsport Park complex in Cromwell.
Dixon has run rallycross events previously in the US and hopes to attract significant numbers of competitors to entertain a potential audience of 17,000 in ASB Baypark Stadium.
"Most of the competitors will be New Zealand rally drivers and competitors with special hillclimb cars and some classes for offroad racing cars and trucks. I've being talking to car clubs and so far the response is very favourable.
"But I'm also working to have a couple of high-profile international drivers there."
To create the 1.5km track length and provide the tarmac necessary for rallycross the track will run through the speedway pit gate into the sealed pit area and return to the arena via a ramp and a gap in the safety fencing. The action outside the arena would be shown on a big screen.
Dixon's experience in promoting rallycross came when he was CEO of West Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida. He says the events there attracted good competitor numbers but modest crowds and convinced him a stadium environment would be more successful. That was further encouraged by recent Jet-sprint events at Baypark. He estimates track set-up and tear down would take place two days either side of the rallycross event.