Castrol Toyota Racing Series organisers have confirmed that next season’s New Zealand Grand Prix will be held at Hampton Downs — a first for the prized trophy — on January 22–24.
VelocityNews understands that numerous tracks had tabled proposals to host the illustrious event; one of only two official FIA Grand Prix held internationally outside of the Formula 1 calendar (the other being the Macau Grand Prix). Former winners of the event range from Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, and Jackie Stewart, to current F1 stars Lance Stroll and Lando Norris.
The announcement confirms that the event will shift away from one of its traditional homes at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. The Feilding venue has hosted the Grand Prix each year since 2008, and for a stanza in the mid-1990s.
“This is our chance to get the New Zealand public reengaged with domestic motorsport,” says Geoff Short, of Speed Works Events. “We have a great circuit, we have a fantastic Grand Prix category in Castrol Toyota Racing Series and we will have championship support categories which will offer something of interest for everyone and hopefully many new fans.
“We know the team at Hampton Downs will go the extra mile to make this event a success and we look forward to working with them over the coming months. “There’s going to be a lot of work going on by all of the stakeholders to make the most of this event and with the announcements that are coming, it will be huge for the public, the fans and drivers from support categories taking part.”
“We are excited to be continuing to run the New Zealand Grand Prix again in 2021,” added MotorSport New Zealand acting CEO Elton Goonan. “The perseverance of all parties involved to ensure this highly regarded event can still take place in uncertain times is a credit to the wider motorsport community. The track provides excellent racing and we are all looking forward seeing NZ’s premier race on our calendar at a world class track.”
The series has yet to confirm most of its drivers for the 2021 season, but organisers say names are to be revealed soon while also confirming that it hasn’t yet given up on the notion of hosting drivers from overseas pending approval from the MBIE and immigration. It’s expected that the entry list will be largely made up of local talent as travel restrictions continue complicate matters for overseas drivers. Veteran Kenny Smith is among the few names announced for the series, having been linked to a 50th start of the New Zealand Grand Prix.
“The opportunity for New Zealand and the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will be to showcase our immense pool of talent both new and old and the high quality racing that the series is known throughout the world for. It’s going to be the best possible way to kick off the 2021 series,” says Category Manager Nicolas Caillol.
“The first drivers will be confirmed very soon. Everyone involved is working hard to put as many great Kiwi drivers behind the wheel for this event as we can. We are determined to make it a fantastic motorsport event. We are still working on the potential of international drivers taking part too and we are continuing to work closely with MBIE and NZ Immigration on a daily basis as the global situation with COVID-19 evolves.”
Chief Operating Officer of Hampton Downs, Josie Spillane, says getting the rights to the New Zealand Grand Prix has been a goal for quite some time for circuit owner and motorsport magnate Tony Quinn.
“I recall when we started at Highlands, Tony [Quinn] very clearly set down that one of his personal goals was to host the Grand Prix and we gave it our best in 2014 and then again when we purchased Hampton Downs,” she said.
“We have always been very open about the fact that we see a huge privilege in hosting the Grand Prix and we are committed to doing our best to make it special and also honour our good friend Kenny Smith. This is his 50th start in the Grand Prix, a milestone we all should be celebrating.”