Today marks 101 days to the first Hampton Downs 101 at Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park.
The event, which features cars and drivers from the Australian GT Championship, is also the official opening for the new look Hampton Downs which has been transformed under new owner Tony Quinn.
“Obviously the place has changed quite a bit since I bought it last year,” says Quinn. “We’ve extended the track, built new corporate suites, a conference centre, a go-kart track and we’ve done a lot of landscaping work. Plans for the future include a museum that celebrates Kiwi motorsport and ingenuity but most importantly I want it to be the number one motorsport track in New Zealand.”
Hampton Downs faces some stiff competition for that title from Quinn’s other racetrack in Cromwell in Central Otago. Built in less than a year, Highlands opened in Easter 2013 to widespread acclaim from drivers and spectators alike. Shaun Summerfield of TV3, one of New Zealand’s most respected motorsport journalists, has driven both tracks and is ideally placed to compare them.
“I think Hampton Downs as a racetrack could well offer better racing than Highlands,” says Summerfield. “Highlands is an awesome place to do a lap but it can be a tricky circuit for racing side-by-side. Hampton Downs has got some very obvious passing points, some pretty cool elevation changes and some tight corners so I think motorsport fans are in for some great racing.”
“But motorsport isn't just about the race. If you bring your family and your kids to a racetrack it’s got to be an enjoyable and easy place to visit. I think when people see what Tony has done at Hampton Downs they’ll realise it’s something special. Tony has a knack for appreciating what the fans want, because he’s a motorsport fan himself and Hampton Downs is a unique opportunity for motorsport in New Zealand.”
Since 2013, Highlands has hosted the Highlands 101 and with Quinn’s purchase of Hampton Downs last year, North Island motorsport fans get their chance to see one of the fastest growing categories in world motorsport. In Australia, interest in the GT Championship is at an all-time high.
“GT cars are aspirational,” says Tony Quinn. “If you look at games like Gran Turismo or that kind of stuff, they promote the kind of cars you see going head to head with one another in the Australian GT Championship. You don’t see many Holden Commodores, Ford Falcons or any other V8 Supercars in Gran Turismo. People are excited by Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis and as a sport we have to mindful of that and give people what they want.”
Some of the cars that will race 101 laps around Hampton Downs at the end of October include Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW. The calibre of the cars has tempted a number of leading V8 Supercar drivers, including Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Craig Lowndes to drive in the Highlands 101 in previous years. Klark Quinn, Tony’s son, teamed up with van Gisbergen to win last year’s Highlands 101 in a thrilling finish.
Other classes that will feature as part of the Hampton Downs 101 festival of motorsport in November include the Central Muscle Cars, GTRNZ and the Aussie Racing Cars, one of the fastest and most popular classes in Australia.
There will be a feast of entertainment on and off the track including a family zone and a display by drift superstar ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett. Parking and U16s accompanied by an adult are both free.