Story: Motor sport

Page 3. Race tracks and racing organisations

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Rise of car clubs

After the Second World War New Zealanders were quick to resume their love affair with motor cars, and car clubs proliferated. In 1947 representatives of eight clubs formed the Association of New Zealand Car Clubs (ANZCC), which drafted common rules for competitions. It also introduced a grading system and licences for competition drivers, created national championships for a variety of motor sport events and defined strict controls for events conducted by member clubs.

MotorSport New Zealand

In 1967 the ANZCC became the MotorSport Association of New Zealand and then, in 1996, MotorSport New Zealand. In 2010 MotorSport New Zealand had nearly 100 member car clubs throughout New Zealand and was the governing body for mainstream motor sport in the country. It issued event and competition licences and monitored technical, safety and training standards in all aspects of mainstream motor sport.

MotorSport New Zealand was the national sanctioning body appointed by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the Paris-based governing body which administered rules and regulations for most international four-wheeled motor sport.

MotorSport New Zealand ran championships that began with entry-level and low-cost single-seater racing and culminated in the New Zealand V8 championship and the Toyota Racing Series, which included the New Zealand Grand Prix. The Wellington-based governing body, in partnership with a number of its member car clubs, owns Rally of New Zealand Limited, organiser of the New Zealand Rally Championships, which includes the Rally of New Zealand, a round of the World Rally Championship, every second year.

Ron Frost

Levin Motor Racing Circuit, a sealed circuit within the Levin horse-racing track, attracted crowds of more than 20,000 in the 1950s and 1960s. It was the brainchild of British-born racing enthusiast Ron Frost, who was keen on the ‘500’ movement, introduced to encourage cheaper motor sport using 500-cc motorcycle engines. Frost was president of the Association of New Zealand Car Clubs from 1958 to 1977 and was a member of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile and the World Motor Sport Council.

New Zealand’s racing circuits

By 2012 New Zealand had seven major motor sport circuits. Pukekohe Park was the longest-running of the North Island circuits. Originally mainly a horse-racing venue, it opened in 1963 and replaced Ardmore aerodrome as the venue for the New Zealand Grand Prix. In the 1960s and early 1970s it became the home of New Zealand’s main production-car races, the Wills six-hour and the Benson and Hedges 500. (Production cars are unmodified or lightly modified regular vehicles.) These became the second most important motor races after the New Zealand Grand Prix. They pleased the crowds due to the mix of cars with vastly different performance – Volkswagen Beetles and Fiat Bambinas shared track space with the latest Jaguars, Alfa Romeos and Lotus Cortinas. From 1964 to 1975 Pukekohe’s fast 2.8-kilometre track also hosted the Tasman series, which attracted many Europe-based Grand Prix drivers such as Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.

The 2.8-kilometre Hampton Downs, which opened in 2009, was in 2012 New Zealand’s newest motor racing circuit. It was located near the Meremere Drag Strip, south of Auckland, and was privately owned and part of a multi-purpose industrial park. The other North Island circuits were the company-owned Taupō Motorsport Park, which had four racetrack configurations from 1.3 to 3.4 kilometres, and the trust-owned Manfeild circuit, which featured a 3-kilometre track.

South Island circuits were owned by car clubs. Teretonga Park, a purpose-built raceway constructed by the Southland Sports Car Club in 1957, was a 2.6-kilometre circuit in Invercargill. Timaru International Motor Raceway, also known as the Levels, was operated by the South Canterbury Car Club and had circuit options of 1.6 and 2.4 kilometres. Ruapuna Park near Christchurch, owned by the Canterbury Car Club, was a 3.3-kilometre circuit with various configuration choices.

How to cite this page:

Jim Webber, 'Motor sport - Race tracks and racing organisations', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 May 2024)

Story by Jim Webber, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Apr 2016