Race tracks battle for V8 race
FORGET Ford against Holden, Hampton Downs versus Pukekohe Raceway is set to provide the best V8 confrontation of the year.
The boss of the Australian V8 Supercars is threatening to axe the New Zealand round of the series if a suitable replacement venue for the Hamilton street circuit cannot be found.
The final ITM 400 in Hamilton will be on the street circuit from April 20-22.
In an interview with Driven writer Eric Thompson, Tony Cochrane casts doubt over the ability of purpose-built Hampton Downs at Meremere to host the V8 Supercars.
Mr Cochrane said the owners had too much debt to make the necessary improvements and resource consent issues would limit the crowd to 20,000 a day, making the cost of tickets "outrageous".
It's not an argument that finds any traction with Hampton Downs managing director Tony Roberts.
"I've told him [Mr Cochrane] everything he needs to know and I get sick and tired of him," Mr Roberts said.
"We've talked to Transit New Zealand and all we need to do is come up with a suitable parking plan. That means parking off-site and busing in, like they do in Hamilton.
"They would grant us a special consent and that could be done in a very easy manner. It's not an issue."
Mr Roberts said the crowd figure could be as many as the promoters wanted.
In terms of the money required for improvements, Mr Roberts had an equally emphatic response - what improvements?
"We've got the pit garages and everything they need," he said.
Mr Roberts had heard talk that the track was too short but said with the ability to go to 2.8km they were as long as Pukekohe.
"If they want a longer track we can build another piece of track. We have the room, it's all pre-loaded and ready to go.
If we had a long-term contract, there'd be a good chance of that happening."
Pukekohe has sold the land to the north of the raceway for a shopping centre, which Mr Roberts believed would lead to the sort of parking and congestion issues that had hindered Hamilton's ability to host the weekend.
"If you invest there you're investing in the past; if you invest in Hampton Downs you're investing in the future."
Mr Cochrane appears to be a tepid advocate for a return to Pukekohe, where the V8 Supercars raced from 2001 to 2008.
"It's an option we think can work but we're not at that point yet," he said.
Prime Minister John Key recently said the Government was prepared to inject cash into upgrading Pukekohe, while ruling out Whenuapai and Hampton Downs.
Mr Roberts said the PM had been fed a bad line and local National MPs Lindsay Tisch and Paul Hutchison "were right behind Hampton Downs".
"What Tony [Cochrane] has to do is work out where he wants to go. He'll run anywhere he's paid to go. If someone pays him, he'll go. We're just a circuit to hire. If he wants to hire us, he can hire us."
Mr Cochrane said he was committed to finding a New Zealand home for the V8s, but it had to be done by early July when the calendar was drawn up.
Mr Roberts questions that commitment.
"I get frustrated because it seems to be a big game to him."