The 2023 Supercars calendar is beginning to take shape but may be without a New Zealand round due to potential resource consent issues for Hampton Downs. At current, a gap remains in late September, a big TBA long expected to have been filled by the world-class circuit.
Issues out of the control of Supercars, however, may see that round instead go elsewhere, including out of New Zealand.
With the closure of Pukekohe from early next year, Supercars have already had their final swansong at the circuit, leaving the Australian series forced to find a new home of racing across the Tasman.
Hampton Downs has long been seen as the most logical destination.
The circuit, in a short period of time, has established itself as a world-class motorsport venue just 40 minutes south of Auckland. Prior to Hampton Downs being purchased by Tony Quinn, the circuit was awarded resource consent in 2012 to allow for up to 50,000 visitors for a single day of competition; that consent, however, was never formally authorised.
With the announcement of the Covid cancelled 2020 Hampton Downs round, the number of visitors permitted by the circuit’s resource consent for a single day increased from its previous maximum of 20,000 to 30,000.
With the closure of Pukekohe, Supercars will be looking for a large turnout to make the international trip worthwhile.
Whilst Hampton Downs has the capacity to deal with large crowds, the relevant authorities have been reluctant to approve the desired 50,000 visitors per day limit due to logistical implications a larger turnout would bring.
This includes the New Zealand Transport Agency, which has fought in past to keep the capacity capped at 20,000 for traffic management purposes. It is believed the agency perceives the location, just off the Waikato Expressway, would cause a significant issue for traffic on the main thoroughfare in and out of Auckland.
It is also understood that acquiring funding for the event may also prove difficult. Past promoters Auckland Unlimited have helped with previous events. The move to Waikato may see further negotiation required due to it falling outside their jurisdiction.
This may, in fact, prove a possibility; the agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2021 with the economic development arm of the Waikato District Council to work together on joint economic development opportunities.
A Supercars round at Hampton Downs would most likely fall under that umbrella, the economic returns from the Pukekohe event estimated by Auckland Unlimited to have brought in an excess of $30 million to local GDP since 2012.
However, the issue of resource consent may still prove to be problematic.
Should these reports prove to be true, it may mean Kiwis will need to wait until at least 2024 for their first glimpse at the new Gen3 machinery.
In a time before covid, the circuit was scheduled to host the 2020 New Zealand round before lockdown restrictions were imposed. This event was only scheduled due to restrictions on racing at Pukekohe on ANZAC Day imposed by Auckland Council.
Even then, the limits for that event were capped at 30,000 after additional resource consent was received. Supercars was working on increasing this until the pandemic derailed 2020 plans. At that time, only General Admission tickets were available for purchase.
Other alternatives do remain for the series in New Zealand, with a South Island round at Highlands Motorsport Park touted early after the announcement of Pukekohe’s closure. Infrastructure at this venue, however, would most likely need investment to accommodate Supercars.
Other options, including Taupo and Ruapuna, have also been mentioned, yet work would also be required at both tracks to accommodate the demand and scale of the premier Australian series.
Time constraints will now also be a factor if any such development were to take place.
It’s not the first time resource consent issues have troubled the series as they venture across the Tasman, the opening 2001 round, the proposed Auckland street race and Hamilton 400 all face their own hurdles.
Supercars have, however, confirmed their intentions of hosting a New Zealand round following the Pukekohe SuperSprint in September.
“While 2022 will mark our final weekend of racing at Pukekohe, we appreciate that through our time racing at the circuit, we have forged great partnerships with Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, long-time naming rights partner of the event ITM and amazing support from our loyal Kiwi fans,” said Supercars CEO Shane Howard
“We have other great venue options available and will now begin discussions regarding our 2023 calendar.
“It’s our absolute intent to continue racing in New Zealand and we are now exploring alternative venues for the New Zealand event for the future.”
With the 2023 calendar reducing from 13 events to 12, competition from Australian circuits for a race weekend is fierce, the revamped Queensland Raceway putting The Bend and Winton at threat.
This means Supercars have the choice of at least two world-class circuits to fill the gap the lack of a New Zealand round would bring.
It is already known that Newcastle will open proceedings for the year, before returning in support of the Melbourne Grand Prix from March 30 until April 2.
It is then expected they will return to Perth and then on to Symmons Plains before the Darwin Triple Crown and Townsville 500, respectively. Following that is expected to be the Sandown 500, followed by the yet-to-be-confirmed round.
Traditionally, the Sandown 500 has preceded the Bathurst 1000, but a booking by SpeedSeries at that circuit, around that time, may see the event pushed to earlier in September. That leaves a gap in the calendar which has been widely touted to be in New Zealand.
The Bathurst 1000 is most likely to follow the unconfirmed event, with the Gold Coast 500 and Adelaide 500 set to round out the season, as they have in 2022.
Only time will tell whether these reports prove to be correct, with New Zealand fans now forced to anxiously wait to see if Hampton Downs, or an alternative venue, make the 2023 cut.
Correction: Velocity News originally reported the 2020 event at Hampton Downs was capped at 20,000 visitors per day when resource consent was actually granted for 30,000. We apologise for this error .