Three race meetings in the North Island on the same weekend in January 2021. While the Castrol Toyota Racing Series has its opening New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Hampton Downs in the North Waikato 23-24 January, further down the road at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park the annual Taupo Historic Grand Prix will also be taking place. If you think that is not enough, then carry on down the road to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding and we have the new Super Production category with their opening, and only, North Island round taking place at a local club day.
How can this have happened and can it be fixed? We put this to Elton Goonan, acting CEO of Motorsport New Zealand (MSNZ)?
“Well, Covid-19 has played an important part here and what we have is a consequence of that.
“Traditionally, the Toyota Racing Series has been down South for their first two rounds, so any North Island racing didn’t clash. Given the variables that Toyota have had to work with, it has been a matter of getting the series off the ground.
“A number have raised the point of why not have the NZGP a week later at Hampton Downs as part of the Toyota Festival?
“The problem is that it is a one-day event (Sat 20 Jan) and Hampton Downs was already booked on the Sunday for a motorcycle meeting.
“The previous weekend wouldn’t work as well, as HD are also booked out. In fact, there was no other space in January.”
Which brings us to the new MSNZ category, the new Super Production Championship. How come they are not also competing at Hampton Downs at the NZGP meeting?
“The new TCR class (Super Production) was scheduled to be at Speed Works’ Hampton Downs meeting. The reality was the schedule at the Grand Prix was incredibly tight and would be hard to fit Super Production’s race format into it which forced it to move to a different event, the only free event was at Manfeild. Whilst not ideal, it will give added profile to that Manawatu Car Club event, so there is a positive there.
“As the NZGP meeting will be using the international circuit at Hampton Downs, the races are longer, adding another five-minutes to every race. As there is a time limit to the meeting, it meant that the Super Production simply wouldn’t fit without at major shakeup to the other support classes.”
So, what about starting the Super Production in the South Island?
“Well then you start to clash with the South Island classic meetings that are underway. Visiting both islands was important to us when working out a calendar for TCR and Super Production, and its something we want to work towards with all our championships as well. It’s not an ideal situation we have currently, but one we have had to try and manage the best we can.”
Goonan explains that MotorSport New Zealand ultimately has little control over the domestic motorsport calendar but is actively trying to get more involved in helping event organisers set calendars that work for as many stakeholders as possible.
“The majority of the domestic motorsport calendar is done independent of MSNZ. If there is a clash we try and help with another solution, for example alternative dates. However, there are commercial interests involved which, as well, we need to appreciate.
Goonan also mentions part of the current situation stems back to the COVID-19 lockdowns and the rush to complete events that would’ve taken place during those periods
“When we look at the number of events booked between now and April, it is quite extraordinary. It is though people are wanting to get their dates and get it all done.
Despite those lockdowns, Goonan says the sport is recovering well thanks to the MotorSport New Zealand’s ‘Back in Motion’ program.
“Part of the ‘Back in Motion’ program, post lock-down, we instituted a number of discounts off permits and licence fees. This has gone extremely well, in fact, exceeded our expectations. It has been heartening to see new people and returnees back into the sport. Clubsport events are currently very strong and often oversubscribed.
Goonan also makes mention of the governing’s bodies efforts to better communicate and increase support to it’s members and competitors.
“What we are also doing is trying to be more open, having more awareness of what we (MSNZ) are doing. Better and more communication, and both ways, has been and is very important.
“Since lockdown, I have been at approximately 75% of all weekend events, being present on the ground and listening. Part of this approach is a new refreshed MSNZ.
This is part of a new refreshed approach from MotorSport New Zealand.
“It is part of a new way of doing things. We are here for our members, they are us. We need to make sure it is all happening as without it we have no industry.”