We need something to get our minds of yesterday's "racing" - I use this term lightly. And I came across this and found it to be an intresting read!
Sounds very promising however I doubt NZ will ever get to see the F1 - not that we care... bring on the CBD Steet Race!
Date: 26th ofJuly 2004
Writer: Sandy Myhre
New Motorsport Complex Planned
With recent motor racing attention focused on whether Auckland will - or will not - be allowed to run a V8 Supercar meeting next year, the news that a brand new circuit and motorsport complex will be built south of Auckland has almost slipped under the radar.
Except for a few motorsport-related publications, the news has barely recorded a blip with other media.
Quite why is unfathomable although attempting to get any information outside of the official press release was something of a struggle. The principals involved have said they prefer instead to release details over a staggered period of time.
What is known is that planning is well down the track and the new facility near the Meremere dragstrip has the potential to host a Formula One round. If that happens the site in South Auckland (or, depending on one's parochial allegiance, North Waikato) could be home to the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever seen.
Motorsport enthusiasts Tony Roberts, Chris Watson and Geoff Manning have purchased the land and say they have in place the finance for the multi-million dollar motorsport project. Their company, Hampton Downs Motorsport, has formed a partnership with the local iwi, Ngati Noho, a sub-branch of Tainui.
It's a planning consent requirement that plans be submitted in advance and New Zealand designers have already sketched circuit plans. Chris Watson says the civil engineering project is "massive".
It's also a requirement to have official permission to build a new circuit from the governing body of the sport but when Chris Watson applied to MotorSport New Zealand for such permission, he discovered it had been so long since a new circuit was built there weren't any official forms available to lodge the request. The last official permit was given to Manfeild in 1970.
Circuit design plans and the pre-requisite cheque must also be submitted to the world governing body for motorsport, the FIA. This, too, has been done.
The Hampton Downs circuit will be 3.8km in length, over rolling countryside and can be configured to form two separate circuits - one 2.6 kms long and the other (for club racing) 1.1 km in length. It will be built to a higher standard, than any other circuit in New Zealand - FIA Category Two. This category can be relatively easily upgraded to accommodate Formula One.
Are we likely to have a Formula One event in New Zealand some time in the future? When plans for the new circuit were first mooted a couple of years ago the premier formula's supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, apparently hinted to friends here that if the circuit becomes a reality, New Zealand could move up the waiting list.
Whether the Waikato area has enough hotel beds to cope with the huge influx of visitors if New Zealand was granted a Formula One race is another matter although plans for the complex already cannily include 60-80 two-bedroom apartments, each with a ground-level double garage and with unimpeded views over much of the circuit.
Also included in the 400-acre motorsport complex will be a kart track, a four wheel-drive facility, purpose-built garages and a skid pan, all designed for non-sport activity like corporate days, driver training and specialist engine and race-car building.
Why build a circuit near the home of a taniwha? The new motorsport park and complex was a logical progression of existing land use. The Champion Dragway is established and plans are well developed for a new Corrections Department prison and a landfill. Furthermore, the wider surrounding area has been earmarked for additional recreational activities.
There's already a precedent for a motorsport park adjacent to a prison. The Ruapuna Park Raceway in Christchurch is a near-neighbour of Paparua prison and prison work detail can sometimes be seen to include cleaning up after a motor race.
All three of the principals involved in the Hampton Downs project are heavily involved in historic racing and promotion. They are all members of TACCOC (Thoroughbred and Classic Car Owners' Club), a club that promotes historic events at Pukekohe and The Domain Hillclimb in Auckland. Geoff Manning is a former Formula One mechanic and recently raced his rare Volpini single seater at an historic event in Monaco.
Tony Roberts is an active member of the Bruce McLaren Trust. In fact, the head office for the project is alongside the McLaren Trust display centre in Auckland's Remuera Road - above the old garage formerly owned by the McLaren Family when Bruce McLaren was in his New Zealand racing heyday.
Resource consent is hoped to be granted by early 2005 with the first race meeting scheduled for late 2006, about six months after the Australian V8 Supercars are scheduled to make their first appearance in Auckland. Tony Roberts is careful to say that his group is not trying to gazumpt any Supercar event or other circuit promotions.
"We are just guys who love motorsport and are increasingly frustrated at the problems with finding a suitable venue on which to run and promote modern motorsport.
"With the addition of our circuit the whole profile and popularity of motorsport will be raised".
He wrily suggests, however, that should problems arise with the Auckland city road circuit, his group would have a suitable alternative venue in the greater Auckland area.
Some sources within the sport have suggested that while Hampton Downs has exciting potential as a motorsport centre, finance might ultimately be the the major hurdle. The estimated cost to build a circuit of FIA Category Two standard could be in the vicinity of $25 million. Whether private individuals can raise that sort of money without (as happens in Australia and elsewhere) some sort of government assistance, has yet to be established.
And while the consortium of businessmen known as Hampton Downs Motorsport has enthusiasm in abundance, at the moment they don't face any serious competiton in the greater Auckland area from elsewhere. That may change in the not-too-distant future.