Safety policy foils Bay speed-record bid
Tauranga has missed out on hosting a major land-speed record attempt because the notion of racing on the Tauranga Eastern Link has clashed with "safe driving" messages issued by roading authorities.
Tauranga man Shane Plummer applied to the NZ Transport Agency this year for permission to hold a land-speed record attempt on the eastern section of State Highway 2 before it opened next month. The event was expected to involve local and international drivers in high-performance cars such as a Lamborghini and potentially a Bugatti Veyron.
The Bureta motorsport enthusiast said the long, straight road from Kaituna River Bridge to Paengaroa was "perfect" for land-speed racing. His detailed submission to NZTA included endorsements from Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Rhys Arrowsmith.
"We tried to take an opportunity on this beautiful road and have a crack at facilitating a New Zealand land-speed record. The outcome from that was the NZTA can't allow it because they don't want our roads to have the reputation of being fast," Mr Plummer said.
A driver had been caught speeding at 200km/h on the highway this month, however, which was proof that people had already cottoned on to its optimum racing conditions, he said.
"The cat's out of the bag.
"That road is so long, so straight, and so flat. It's perfect," he said.
"I don't think I'll ever come across this opportunity ever again."
He said he was disappointed by the decision.
"Maybe our approach to make it quite a big event was possibly not the best way to go about it," he said.
Mr Plummer proposed the event would be professionally run under a Motorsport New Zealand permit. All entrants would need to hold a Motorsport New Zealand competition licence, belong to a club, and compete in a fully scrutinised vehicle. The event would also have been fully insured.
In the submission, Mr Crosby said: "It would be a unique opportunity to break the New Zealand land-speed record on that road before it opens."
Mr Arrowsmith said: "I can't think of a better way to show New Zealand that access to the Bay of Plenty just got quicker and that we are on track to be the fastest-growing region in New Zealand."
Mr Plummer said the road was so ideal for driving fast that police and the NZTA might want to invest in speed cameras.
Police have already established they will be paying more attention to motorists using the new sections of the road, following the catch of the 200km/h speeder.
NZTA highway manager Niclas Johansson said in his letter to Mr Plummer that any allowance of the plan would directly contradict the agency's safety message.
"The decision was not made lightly ...
"Our message is that safe speed allows drivers to take evasive action should a crash occur ... Allowing you to travel at the speed needed to attempt to break the land-speed record contradicts that message and raises questions about your survivability should a crash occur."
Mr Johansson said the agency worked closely with the police and ACC and allowing such an event would undermine the values of its own work, plus that of its partners.
He told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday that the agency stood by its decision to turn down the application.
"The road is not a race track and nor should it be treated as such ... Our work to create a truly safe transport system needs safe roads, safe vehicles, safe road use and safe speeds."