The New Zealand Grand Prix will move from Teretonga in the deep south to the Manfeild circuit at Feilding for three years, starting from 2008.
May 9, 2007, 11.30pm. MotorSport New Zealand has announced that the 2008 NZ Grand Prix will be raced at the redeveloped Manfeild Motorsport Park at Feilding in the Manawatu.
MotorSport New Zealand president, Steven Kennedy, says four of NZ’s six circuits made bids to host the event.
“Following detailed submissions and discussions with the Manfeild Park management, we have agreed a three-year contract and the first event will be held next year on January 14.”
The Grand Prix will be part of the three-round international section of the Toyota Racing Series.
“(The TRS cars) will be the feature championship class on the programme at (the Manfeild) meeting,” says Kennedy. “Other support classes have yet to be confirmed.
“It’s anticipated TRS (cars) will also contest the Lady Wigram Trophy at Ruapuna, Christchurch, the weekend before with the final round of their international series the following weekend at Taupo (the A1GP meeting).”
The Ruapuna meeting is traditionally not part of MotorSport NZ’s Tier 1 summer series.
Kennedy’s comment that TRS will be the feature class on the January Manfeild programme suggests that the meeting will also not be part of the Tier 1 series of race meetings, and that NZ V8s will not race at Manfeild in January.
It’s understood the Tier 1 Manfeild meeting will run in February, with the NZ V8s as the headline attraction.
Motor racing sources say there’s been some friction and ill-feeling between the TRS and NZ V8s over which class should be accorded premier at meetings where the two ran together last season.
Manfeild Park Trust chief executive, Phil Abraham, says he’s delighted with the decision to award the Grand Prix to his racetrack.
“We plan to make the whole weekend a celebration of motorsport and are determined to make the Grand Prix the pre-eminent event on the calendar.
“It will also allow us to showcase the redeveloping Manfeild Park.
“We expect work to start shortly on the new control tower structure to have it and track resealing and remedial work completed in time for the summer.
“We will also have completed a new 7000 square metre stadium available for indoor displays and activities.”
Since 2002, the NZ Grand Prix has been raced at Teretonga Park, Invercargill. The Southland track took up the challenge of running the event for Formula Ford, traditionally a nursery class for budding single seater drivers.
A Grand Prix for the 1600cc pushrod-engined Formula Fords is unlikely to have held much appeal for tracks like Manfeild, Pukekohe or Ruapuna, but the Southland Sports Car Club rose to the challenge and turned its annual Grand Prix meeting into a major attraction, drawing good crowds.
When the Toyota Racing Series for be-winged Tatuus-Toyota single seaters became firmly established the Grand Prix switched from Formula Ford to the more suitable class, and Daniel Gaunt won this year’s NZ GP at Teretonga in a TRS car.
There has been no official comment yet from the Southland club about the loss of the Grand Prix, but it is understood to be deeply disappointed.
It had been aware of moves to shift the event, and Kerry Cooper of the summer series promoter, the Motor Race Company, has been quoted as saying the company favoured sharing the event around among the country’s racetracks.
The decision announced today (May 9) indicates that any sharing around won’t happen before 2011 at the earliest.
Manfeild had sought the Grand Prix for six years.
Running the event at the Feilding circuit may be seen by some observers as logical: Toyota New Zealand, which masterminded the TRS series, has its headquarters at nearby Palmerston North.
¬ Mike Stock.
Photo caption: Daniel Gaunt on his way to winning the 2007 NZ Grand Prix at Manfeild. Photograph courtesy of Fast Company.