Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

V8 haters told: put brakes on

The raceway will be upgraded for V8 Supercars' return. Photo / Doug Sherring
The raceway will be upgraded for V8 Supercars' return. Photo / Doug Sherring

Defiant V8 Supercars supremo Tony Cochrane has a message for the doomsayers pre-dicting the return of motor racing to Pukekohe will be a financial disaster: get your facts straight.

New Zealand's V8 Supercars race will move back to Auckland's Pukekohe raceway next year for the first time since 2007. The move, which follows a disastrous and costly five-year sojourn in Hamilton, has been slammed by some city leaders.

They are unhappy after a divided Auckland Council voted to spend $10.5 million of ratepayers' money over five years on the event, while Government funding means taxpayers will also be hit in the pocket to the tune of $2.2m.

But Cochrane, the V8 Supercars chairman, said criticism of the event was unfair and there was no financial risk to either taxpayers or ratepayers.

"The biggest difference this time is Auckland Council, Counties Racing and the Government have all insisted that we step into the role of promoter and take on the economic risk.

That [negativity] will all go away in time because we'll do a fantastic event and Auckland will be the beneficiary."

Auckland was simply the only city in New Zealand that could successfully host the V8s, he said. He revealed Wellington and Christchurch also wanted the event, but they were never in contention.

"The bottom line is you can fly from nearly any Australian [state] capital city to Auckland. Auckland is blessed with a number of quality hotels, very good tourism infrastructure and a world class airport. We had to have good access from a tourism point of view and all those roads point to Auckland."

V8 Supercars would benefit from public money, but that was for one week a year, he said.

"For the other 51 weeks of the year New Zealand motorsport gets the benefit of that [upgraded] facility."

There would not be a repeat of what happened in Hamilton, which he said was the fault of a New Zealand promoter that went bankrupt after "making ridiculous promises" to the Hamilton City Council.

"We actually stepped in and have run the last two [events] at a considerable financial cost to ourselves to try help them out. Hamilton had a $16m to $17m economic return to the region every year from that event, so it wasn't all quite as black as some sectors would paint it."

Auckland authorities had a fixed cost, V8s took the risk and the city would reap plenty of economic benefit.

Spectator interest was still high in the V8s. There were a quarter of a million fans in New Zealand, about five drivers in the championship were Kiwis and two teams were owned by New Zealanders.

"We've got a big TV footprint there. We believe it is very sustainable."

Upgrade work at Pukekohe would begin as soon as September and resource consent was not needed because the raceway had existing-rights use.

"It's pretty major. We're putting in the Hamilton infrastructure and will seriously upgrade virtually all the facilities ...

"It'll pass the latest FIA [Federation Internationale de l'Automobile] standards, which Pukekohe currently wouldn't even have a chance of passing."

They had signed a five-year contract, with a further five-year option.

V8s 'welcome': Wendy

Wendy Metcalfe knows Pukekohe Raceway. After driving it for five years in the amateur Alfa Romeo Sud Series, she knows turn one can be fast and there's a couple of bumps "so you have to settle the car before you go into it".

She also runs the race control room as a volunteer, so she knows about the raceway's resident amorous pigeons. "You can hear them mating on the roof in the spring. Then a few weeks later you hear all the tweeting."

Metcalfe didn't drive a car until she was 20 - she didn't have the confidence. Now she flies around the track in her 1982 Alfa Romeo Sud at up to 180km/h, loving every minute.

She's delighted the V8 Supercars are coming back to Pukekohe and isn't worried about the cost.

"I feel the same as I felt with the Rugby World Cup and the yachting. They're the things that bring colour and life to our community."

- Herald on Sunday

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