Bumper start to busy calendar
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There is plenty to keep race fans occupied, writes Colin Smith
An early season international triple header and a full-throttle late-January and early-February calendar are features of New Zealand's 2016-17 summer of motor racing.
Most groups have now confirmed 2016-17 race programmes, which will kick off with three consecutive weekends of international racing.
The official opening and re-launch of the extended Hampton Downs circuit on October 28-30 will see the inaugural running of the Hampton Downs 101 endurance race featuring Australian GT Championship teams in action.
The event will see the latest FIA GT3 machinery on the Waikato track, including latest models from McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-AMG.
The following weekend it's the ITM V8 Supercars Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe, the penultimate round of the V8 Supercars Championship. The opening rounds of the 2016-17 BNT NZ Touring Cars, NZ V8 Utes and Toyota TR 86 Series are among the support race categories.
Then the spotlight turns back to GT action with a journey south for the Highlands 101 event with the final round of the 2016 Australian GT Championship at the Central Otago circuit.
With the spring international triple-treat out of the way the domestic calendar starts at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on December 11-12. It's the first of eight race weekends now billed as the Premier Race Championship.
Photo / Greg Henderson Photography
During the Premier Series it's expected 12 different categories will take turns providing the action.
The second season of unified V8 SuperTourer and NZV8s racing under the BNT NZ Touring Cars banner is on five of the premier weekends while other classes to take turns in the programme are the Toyota Racing 86 Series, NZ V8 Utes, the GTRNZ group with its four GT classes, the Pirelli Porsche Championship, Super Trucks, SsangYong Actyon Utes, Honda Cup and NZ Six categories.
And the Toyota Racing Series also headlines five of those events with the international single-seater "wings and slicks" competition starting at Ruapuna near Christchurch on January 13-15 and then heading to Teretonga (Invercargill), Hampton Downs, Taupo and Manfeild -- for the NZ GP -- over consecutive weekends.
It's when the major classic and historic events are added to the calendar that the January-February becomes crowded.
Hampton Downs will run its NZ Festival of Motor Racing (this year celebrating the remarkable career of Ken Smith) on January 20-22.
That weekend features the first of four NZ-based rounds of the Formula 5000 Tasman Revival Series, which continues at Taupo on January 28-29 and at Ruapuna's Skope Classic meeting on February 4-5 before the finale at Manfeild's NZ Grand Prix meeting.
There's another high-profile event on the packed Waitangi weekend with the Leadfoot Festival at Hahei and there will also be much Kiwi interest in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour endurance race on the same weekend.
Once the New Zealand GP weekend has wrapped up the Toyota Racing Series action there's a chance for everyone to catch their breath before the final two Premier Race Championship events at Hampton Downs (March 11-12) and Pukekohe (April 1-2).
The recent date announcements for four-wheel racing follows confirmation of key dates on the early season motorcycle road race calendar. The three-round Suzuki Road Race Series starts at Taupo on December 4 before moving to Manfeild on December 11 and the Cemetery Circuit finale in Whanganui on Boxing Day.