John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Jetsprints cancelled at Tauranga's Baypark stadium

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Jetsprints cancelled at Tauranga's Baypark stadium. Photo/John Borren
Jetsprints cancelled at Tauranga's Baypark stadium. Photo/John Borren

Tauranga has been dropped as a venue for jetsprints until safety concerns with the infield race track at Baypark Stadium have been resolved.

The summer holidays crowd-pleaser struck problems at the world championships last January when wake from the jet boats eroded the sides of the track and created dangerous shelves on corners.

"At this stage, it does not look like we will be going back in 2017," New Zealand Jetsprint Association president Paul Gaston said.

There was no track deterioration at the first meeting because it was dug into virgin ground, but two subsequent meetings hit problems when the already softened ground was dug out to create shallow water-filled race tracks that largely followed the original track.

"That track deteriorated fairly quickly."

The big crowds were unaware of the problem and thought it was all part of the spectacle of boats spinning out on corners.

However the reality was that race crews were becoming increasingly nervous with the sides of the track falling in to create shelves that were barely ankle deep.

"There were serious safety concerns for drivers. It was pretty scary watching them go around."

Mr Gaston said the shelves made the boats behave erratically, and with the speeds they reached, it was not a risk they were prepared to take again. The two serious crashes in which two crew members were hospitalised overnight as a precaution were attributable to the track.

''That was the clincher for us."

Mr Gaston said they wanted to eliminate as much risk as they could. This meant the association was working with Bay Venues Ltd to come up with an engineering solution to the problem.

They had not ruled out finding a solution in time for this summer, but it looked unlikely, he said.

Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson said they had been told that the association wanted to postpone the meeting for a year until the engineering issues had been sorted. They had spoken to engineering companies willing to assist, but they would not be able to get it done in time.

"While we are disappointed, we understand it from a safety perspective. It is important to get it right."

The extra costs to stage the event would depend on the solution. It may mean a slightly different layout or simply putting used tyres on the corners.

"It does not need to be expensive."'

Meanwhile, the bare earth state of Baypark's infield has disappointed speedway promoter Bernie Gillon because the season's opening race meeting was Queen's Birthday Weekend.

''It is not the ideal start to the season because of the way the infield looks.''

The infield provided a run-off area for cars and a place for emergency vehicles to sit.

Spraying the infield took place in May in order to sow a hardy variety of grass, after the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union decided to no longer use the stadium for matches.

''You could ask why they left it to the last minute,'' Mr Gillon said.

The facility needed to be fit for purpose but the way it looked now, speedway cars and rescue vehicles would have to plod their way through mud and sand.

''We are disappointed,'' he said.

Mr Dawson said the grass would not have taken if they had sown in winter, and the constantly wet spring meant they had been unable to level the ground and sow the seed as quickly as they wanted.

''We are working hard to get it in as good a condition as we can. Once the grass is sown, it will grow very quickly.''

Jetsprint meetings at Baypark Stadium
- Attracts crowds of 15,000
- Competitors from New Zealand, Australia, US and Canada
- Organised by the New Zealand Jetsprint Association

- Bay of Plenty Times

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