Racing into the New Year
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January is revving up with a packed calendar of high-profile events throughout New Zealand along with several international highlights.
The first big events of January 2017 are on the nation’s dirt ovals. Auckland’s Western Springs Speedway completes the five-round summer international midget car series with the King of the Springs 40-lapper on New Year’s Day and the World 50-lap Classic on January 3.
Speedway stays in high gear throughout January with nine of 12 classes recognised by SpeedwayNZ deciding their national title meetings during the month.
First up are the New Zealand Super Stock Champs at Palmerston North and the Modified title at Greymouth, both scheduled for January 2-3.
January 6-7 dates are set to decide the NZ Super Saloon Car Champs at Cromwell while the biggest of the national title meetings — in terms of entries — is the NZ Stock Car title which will see more than 160 drivers chasing success at the Kihikihi Speedway in the South Waikato.
January Speedway title action includes the New Zealand Super Saloon Car Champs at Cromwell where defending champ Mark Osborne (16) is among the leading contenders. Photo / Colin Smith
The New Zealand Sprint Car title is at Ruapuna Speedway near Christchurch on January 13-14 and the Streetstock hchamps are set for Stratford on January 20-21.
On the last weekend of the month there’s a title triple-header with the TQ Midget Car Champs at Napier’s Meeanee Speedway and the Midget Car title at Nelson on January 27-28 while the NZ Saloon Car Champs at are Auckland’s Waikaraka Park on January 28-29.
On two wheels the New Zealand Superbike Championship completes the first half of its four-round series this month.
A January 7-8 series opener at Ruapuna doubles as the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting while the Deep Southern Nationals at Teretonga take place on January 14-15. Following a break Taupo and Hampton Downs host the final two rounds in late February and early March.
Top Motocross racers will battle for New Zealand Grand Prix honours at Woodville over the January 28-29 weekend. Photo / Greg Henderson
On the dirt bike scene the annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville catering for the full spectrum of senior, veterans, women’s, junior and mini MX competition takes place on January 28-29.
Quarter-mile action faces the starting lights this weekend (Jan 6-7) with the Drag-stalgia event and front-engine dragster challenge at the Masterton Motorplex. Round two of Meremere Dragway’s Competition Series will run on January 14.
Circuit racing makes a slightly later January start and the sport divides into modern and historic disciplines this month.
The Toyota Racing Series featuring young rising stars of international and local single-seater racing hits the track with a January 14-15 opener for the Lady Wigram Trophy at Ruapuna Park and then moves to Invercargill for the Spirit of a Nation Cup at Teretonga on January 21-22.
The TRS action then heads north for round three which is the New Zealand Motor Cup meeting at Hampton Downs on January 28-29.
The NZ Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs on January 20-22 will celebrate the career of veteran Kiwi racer Ken Smith. Photo / Colin Smith
For historic enthusiasts the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing celebrates the career of Ken Smith in 2017 and features a programme that includes Formula 5000, Historic Touring Cars, Muscle Cars and international Formula Junior racing runs at Hampton Downs across January 20-22.
And the new Historic Grand Prix event featuring 3.0-litre Formula 1 cars from the 1966-79 period is at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on January 28-29.
On the international scene there are three major events on the January calendar.
The Dakar Rally starts in Paraguay on January 2 and the 9000km, fortnight-long, marathon takes more than 300 competing crews in the car, truck, motorcycle, quad and new-for-2017 UTV classes high into the Andes mountains with stages above 5000m altitude in Bolivia.
The final part of the rally heads into Argentina and the finish ceremony in Buenos Aires is on January 14.
A 2017 FIA World Rally Championship that promises a less predictable competitive landscape — since Volkswagen canned its programme — starts with the Monte Carlo Rally running January 19-22.
New cars for 2017, the move by world champion Sebastien Ogier to the M-Sport Ford team and the arrival of Toyota into the WRC provide the talking points to a season-opening Monte Carlo Rally that could challenge crews with any random mix of icy tarmac, melting snow or dry mountain roads.
January’s top level international racing action is provided by the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 28-29.
The Daytona endurance race that has moved back into the spotlight in recent years since the IMSA and Grand-Am sports car series were brought together. The race will see the debut of new cars in the Daytona Prototype International, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona (GT3) categories and will see Kiwi drivers Brendon Hartley, Scott Dixon and Shane van Gisbergen in action.