Wednesday, Sep 11 06:00pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Scott McLaughlin says Kiwi fans “deserve another Supercars round”

Home town hero Scott McLaughlin believes the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship should expand in New Zealand before going anywhere else outside of Australia.


Over the past decade Supercars organisers have pushed to get their presence back on a global scale throughout Asia and North America.  


The series had brief spells at Shanghai International Circuit, Bahrain International Circuit and Yas Marina Circuit in the mid-to-late-2000s. Since then a five-year deal to race at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, USA lasted just one season and an attempt to race on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2016 season was undone after the KL City Grand Prix organisers reportedly struck legal issues (pictured below).



Supercars organisers sent several cars to Malaysia for demonstration races in 2015


More recently there have been attempts to get onto the Formula 1 support card at the Singapore Grand Prix around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, though nothing has materialized from those discussions.


Speaking with prior to this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe Park, McLaughlin echoed fellow countryman Shane van Gisbergen’s desire for a second round at home.


“I’d rather have two rounds here before we go anywhere else for sure,” McLaughlin said of a push for races outside of the Trans-Tasman.


“New Zealand deserves another Supercars round. Whether or not we can generate enough interest for two rounds back-to-back, whether that’s financially stable for the teams and for the Supercars alike, I’m not sure.”



Scott McLaughlin rates Pukekohe Park highly, but wants another home race


Next year the Supercars Championship will see the return of Sydney Motorsport Park after a one-year hiatus. With a drop in government support for the Ipswich SuperSprint, Queensland Raceway has been left off the calendar as has the Phillip Island SuperSprint, which has struggled to draw crowds.


The ITM Auckland SuperSprint is currently backed by Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED). Finding funding for a second round in New Zealand could be a tricky task.


Currently the series is looking to cut costs in some areas and raise the profile in others. While a second in New Zealand round might yield a strong crowd, McLaughlin said it would probably come at the cost of another round in Australia.


“[Supercars] are trying to cost save so having another round is not going to do that,” he said.


“If we dropped a round in Australia – because we already have plenty over there – it would be cool to do a double-header here [in New Zealand].


“Whether it’s a week, a week off, then a week on. That could be better. But I think you’ll find if we do another round it’ll be back-to-back. If we do take some off them and we add another one here it’ll probably cause a bit of an uproar.”



Chelsea Herbert flies her Toyota Camry across the bridge at Highlands Motorsport Park


New Zealand is fortunate to have seven other circuits to choose from. Hampton Downs and Highlands Motorsport Park are the most recently built and up-to-date facilities in New Zealand. However, circuits like Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch, Teretonga Park in Invercargill, and Levels Raceway in Timaru regularly attract good crowds for domestic motor racing events.


If he had it his way, McLaughlin said he’d like to see the Supercars Championship race at Highlands Motorsport Park near Queenstown or Mike Pero Motorsport Park, formerly known as Ruapuna.


“I’d love to go to Highlands, that would be pretty cool,” McLaughlin said.


“Highlands would be nice or even Ruapuna. That would be a cool track for [Supercars]. It’s a little bit tight.


“I think we need to have one in the South Island, we can’t have one in the North Island… well, we could, but in the South Island there’s a lot of fans down there.”