Hampton Downs Motorsport Park – A New Challenge.

Since opening in 1963 Pukekohe Park Racway has held the title as the only successful major motor racing circuit in the top half of the North Island( for an aerial picture and a list of a few great drivers who have graced this circuit go here). Okay there will be a few of you that will take me to task about Taupo but it didn’t start up until the early 1970s and then it was only as a minor karting track of approximately 1 km in length. Its international status is only recent since its new upgrade was completed a few years ago.

There has been a lot of speculation about Pukekohe Park Raceway and its continued use but truly the death knell has been sounded by the surrounding land development and its days as a motor race circuit are numbered. Whether that be for 2 years or 5 racing there has become more difficult with lack of up keep of the track facilities and an increase in complaints of noise. There have been some fantastic racing moments had by many on this circuit and as such the memories will live on far longer than the black seal that is currently covering the ground. The track has been a friend to many and equally it has had its critics, racers who have never managed to master the awkwardness of the track, and those who have never raced but still found it necessary to offer an opinion as to the poor condition and design of the circuit.

Having raced motorcycles with the Classic Racing Register at Pukekohe for 15 years ( yes I once was young and adventuresome and known then as McSlowly but I could still beat the Knobster) I will sadly salute its fairwell for the valiant service that it has provided over the last 46 years but time has moved on and a new challenge has presented itself in the form of the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.

Situated approximately 60kms south of Auckland on State Highway One, on the northern boundary of the Waikato, is the new race track. It backs on to the main north south expressway (SH1) so is easily accessible and for those with ties to the local community the prison (oops, a bit of PC here, its the Spring Hill Correctional Facility) is just around the corner so visiting relatives can be offered up as “2 birds with the one stone”. Actually some of its misguided miscreants were used in assembling some of the tyre safety walls. Makes you wondered whats been buried there for later retrieval.

To promote interest in the new circuit Hampton Downs management have been offering up end of month tours of the complex and circuit. It is still under construction but has come along way in the last 2 years and is currently being readied for the first official meeting in January 2010, the Tasman Revival Meeting run by the Historic Racing Club.

An opportunity arose for Junior McSnipper and myself to attend last months tour (August 30th) and despite the rain squalls we had an enjoyable time and were most impressed with the new layout. It is good to see motorsport interest on the increase as over 200 other people had the same idea of a free look at the development. Visitors were wide and varied, from motorcyclists, to hot rodders, classic car owners, and even the Alvis Owners group turned up.

Part of the days visit was to create a pictorial log of the layout of the interesting parts of the circuit so that those who are unable to attend can get a reasonable idea of what to expect should they wish to give Hampton ‘a go’. This view is with regard to motorcycle racing, particularly our Pre 1945 interest however the views are universal for any person wishing to race any type of vehicle.

Being a very amateur photographer I had to borrow Mrs McSnippys Box Brownie that normally hides in the far off corner of her drawers. With film at the ready, clipboards armed and pencils sharpened and all inline we set off. The circuit on offer was the 2.8km one, the international 3.8 km track still needing some attention in the earth moving department. Completion of this section is planned for January 2010 however given New Zealands changing weather patterns it may take a little longer.

hampton-track-final-copy

Moving clockwise around the circuit starting from the end of the front straight (Corner A) the most noticeable thing about the track is that a lot a hard work and thought has been invested into its design. Gone is the old school standard of joining a few corners with a few straights on a piece of flat ground (Taupo springs to mind). From the moment you start descending around the sweeping righthander one instantly gets the impression that yes this circuit is definitely going to offer challenges with its uphill turns and downhill twists, and to leave the track with a sensation of anything less than excitement means that true racing is probably not for you.

To continue the descriptive walk around the circuit click on the required thumbnails to go to the appropriate photographs and descriptions.

Corner A Entry.

Corner A Entry.

Corner A Exit.

Corner A Exit.

Corner B Entry.

Corner B Entry.

Corner B Exit.

Corner B Exit.

Corner C.

Corner C.

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Corner D.

Corner D.

Corner D Exit.

Corner D Exit.

Corner E Entry.

Corner E Entry.

Corner E Entry 2.

Corner E Entry 2.

Corner E Sweeper.

Corner E Sweeper.

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Corner E Gradient.

Corner E Gradient.

Corner F.

Corner F.

Corner G.

Corner G.

Corner H.

Corner H.

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And then of course there are those special shots when riders just don’t quite calculate the corners correctly and end up with views like these –

Playing in the sandpit.

Playing in the sandpit.

Hope my bike is ok??

Hope my bike is ok??

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So there you have it. There is still a lot of work to be completed, with landscaping, carparking, and camping areas yet to be finished. However the work that has been completed is of international standard so when everything is done Hampton Downs will be the envy of all other tracks.

For additional info go to –

www.hamptondowns.com for more updates on Hampton Downs Racepark. The site also offers a computer generated preview of racing around the track. It is best viewed on broadband and as the McSnotty PC is steam driven via dial-up it just couldn’t hack the pace so I miss out on this one.

www.grandprix.org.nz for dates and information on Historic Racing Car Club Events planned for Hampton Downs.

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