Motorsport: Between a track and a hard place

By Eric Thompson

The concrete barrier over the mountain at Pukekohe Park Raceway doesn't look comfortable from any angle. Photo / Supplied
The concrete barrier over the mountain at Pukekohe Park Raceway doesn't look comfortable from any angle. Photo / Supplied

Pukekohe has hosted motorcycle racing since the track was built and the mountain right-hand sweeper commanded great respect from every rider.

On a good lap some of the bikes would be knocking on the door of 200km/h, and in the corner's original state there was damn all run-off before you hit the fence - but there was some.

Now there is no run-off at all. Concrete barriers have been placed right at the edge of the track leaving absolutely no room for error.

If some sort of airbag or safety bundle were placed on the inside of the barrier, a fair chunk of the racing tarmac would disappear.

This has caused contention in the motorcycle camp.

"There's been very little consultation around the track improvements outside the car people," says Auckland Motorcycle Club president Graham Bastow.

"We had a meeting before Christmas about what the changes to the circuit were gong to be and felt quite positive.

"We had another meeting at the circuit last week and saw where the barriers were [on the mountain corner] and were more than a bit perturbed." However, he says most of the improvements to the track and pits are great.

If a rider were to have a choice, it would be far better to hit smooth concrete and slide along it than smack into something jagged and be ripped apart. But having a bit of run-off allowing time for the rider to separate from the bike is a much better option.
Where the concrete barriers have been placed is the fastest part of the circuit where immovable objects are in very close proximity. If the barriers were placed back from the track up against the old concrete wall it would allow for a double row of airbags and a bit of run-off.

However, the FIA and others don't like the idea of the V8s getting on to the grass, turning sideways and being T-boned by following cars. The idea of the concrete is that a car can slide along it, allowing a driver the opportunity of gaining control, or at the very least not pinging back on to the circuit.

While many of the circuit improvements have been welcomed by the motorcycle racers, the barriers are a sticking point.

"I have suggested a bit of a compromise where they move the barriers back and then tarmac the area between the track and concrete barriers," Bastow says.

"This would allow time for drivers to try and regain control, and us to place airbags up against the barriers that won't encroach on to the track."

His idea had, in fact, been put forward before but never made the discussion table so Bastow proposed it again to circuit manager Greg Mitchell, who has agreed to have a look at the cost of the extra tarmac.

"Greg is getting a costing in time for a meeting that is due to be held in the middle of March," Bastow says.

"I'm very hopeful we can find a resolution and I would struggle to understand, other than cost, of course, why there would be any objection to the idea.

"If push came to shove the extra cost could be carried by circuit users or an extra levy could be placed on track use until the amount is paid off."

- DRIVEN

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 24 Apr 2014 07:12:05 Processing Time: 1083ms