Motorsport: Opening blast on intriguing track

By Jacqui Madelin

The California Superbike School will stage events at Hampton Downs. Photo / Supplied
The California Superbike School will stage events at Hampton Downs. Photo / Supplied

After six years of work, 250,000cu m of fill and some high-tech bitumen research, Hampton Downs MotorSport Park has opened for business.

It celebrated by offering us a once-in-a-lifetime experience: riding the 2.8km circuit by pillion on a superbike.

That bike is part of the California Superbike School, one of three experienced outfits that have signed up to deliver between-races events at Hampton Downs.

Running a race track is pricey and with conference centres, pit buildings, roads, phone, power, and sewerage networks to build from scratch, the track must make money from the get-go.

Thus Downforce will run driver training and corporate events; Formula Challenge will expand its V8s and open-wheelers from Taupo; and the California Superbike School will base its New Zealand fleet of Suzuki GSXR600s at Hampton Downs to deliver professional rider training, as an extension of its worldwide network.

Kitted up in tight-fit, one-piece leathers, perched on a race-bike's vestigial pillion pew behind Australia's managing director and chief instructor Steve Brouggy, and clinging to a tank-mounted handle while we rocketed round at mind-bending angles, I realised I'd finally lost my marbles.

This was my first view of the track and by God it's interesting, with blind crests and bends approached at insane speed over an impressively smooth surface. It took another outing, this time in an Audi R8 V10, to really appreciate its complexity.

As he hurtled round, A1GP veteran and Downforce instructor Jonny Reid told me this track will reward good drivers and sweet-handling cars rather than outright power, for it's a tricky circuit and much of it is tackled blind.

But it's also wide enough for passing, and he guarantees spectator-pleasing races from this track.

We can't wait.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Apr 2014 13:43:16 Processing Time: 616ms