Motorsport: 101 reasons to celebrate motorsport
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Ambitious plans to bring more international motorsport here
Today and tomorrow host what may be the “coming of age” of the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
The “Hampton Downs 101” weekend will use the entire, newly revised track for the best quality gathering of GT cars to have assembled for racing in New Zealand.
Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Porsche, Nissan and BMW are represented with a strong field of Kiwi drivers taking on an equally strong field of Aussie visitors.
The Hampton Downs track was the brainchild of Tony Roberts and Chris Watson who felt the traditional Auckland area track of Pukekohe was tired and did not suit the sort of modern racing cars, especially single seater “open wheel” cars being used. They took on the monumental task of finding a suitable property, funding the acquisition, and organising resource consent.
Building a racing circuit, on hundreds of acres of land, in multiple titles, next to a motorway and near a prison became a Herculean task that took many months, going into more than a year, and took a seven-figure amount of money.
Perseverance led to permission being given. Work started with a fleet of earthmoving machinery scraping the track design from the farmland.
The machinery was emblazoned with the name “Reid”, and was all owned and operated by the company owned by the father of then A1GP driver Jonny Reid, who was at the wheel of the first machine to start the works.
Make no mistake, the establishing of this privately owned, privately funded circuit, surrounded by the country’s largest population catchment, was not a task for the faint-hearted and was innovative in its design and construction with trackside apartments built alongside the circuit.
Through contacts with UK-based West Surrey Racing, run by Kiwi ex-pat Dick Bennetts, and the A1GP team owned by Sir Colin Giltrap, international circuit designer Clive Bowen took on some of the detailed design work and homologation requirements with the FIA, including changing the direction of racing to clockwise from the original anti-clockwise design. The work progressed with the help of Springhill inmates who were drafted in to assemble some of the nearly 50,000 tyres used as safety barriers. When the circuit opened in 2009, it quickly became one of the country’s busiest tracks.
In 2015 Tony Quinn stepped up to buy the circuit as an adjunct to his Highlands Park track in Cromwell.
He set about completing the original plans, formed by Roberts and Watson, by building the circuit extension, making it possible for international events to be held.
As an addition a kart track has been built, the pit and paddock complex, with hospitality units above, has been completed and the complex has taken on the look of some of the best European tracks. So, now we have the Hampton Downs 101 event launching what is one of the best facilities in Australasia, right on the doorstep of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
This is an event not to be missed. Anyone remotely interested in the sport will no longer have a leg to stand on if they complain that we have no, or not enough, international motor racing in this country. International GT racing and the Toyota Racing Series are just two of the series scheduled for this track with some ambitious plans to bring even more worldwide series to race here.
Tony has firm ideas on how the sport should be run and many of those ideas will grate with the more traditional “club” racers but the bottom line is that if there are to be safe, exciting, fast and “professional” venues for motor sport, not only for international visitors but for the many competitors who want to see their own formulae prosper, then those facilities have to be paid for.
The country’s smaller club tracks have their place. They are great places on which to race but there has to be a showplace or two.
Rugby has Eden Park. Cricket has the Basin Reserve. And now motorsport has Hampton Downs and Highlands Motorsport Park.