Motorsport: Pukekohe hinges on you

By Eric Thompson

Fabian Coulthard is one of the V8 Supercars' fast movers. Photo / Getty Images
Fabian Coulthard is one of the V8 Supercars' fast movers. Photo / Getty Images

There certainly has been a lot of jibber-jabber across all forms of the media of late about the V8 Supercars moving back to the South Auckland race track of Pukekohe.

A lot of comment has been ill informed and badly researched. This is not the place to bang on about the whys and wherefores, as Driven likes to look to motorsport's future. However, a certain point or two must be made.

First up, all the negativity around the financial losses incurred racing on street circuits is quite true. A street circuit is not a purpose-built race track as Pukekohe is, so the comparisons and hand wringing about yet another potential financial disaster is a moot point.

Second, race cars belong on a race track and not on public roads. Therefore, the V8 Supercars going back to the New Zealand spiritual home of V8 racing can only be a good thing.

Moving swiftly on, rather than talking to a bunch of angst-ridden local politicians, Driven has asked a V8 Supercars driver, who raced at Pukekohe when the event was last held there in 2006, what he thinks about going back.

New Zealand driver Fabian Coulthard's introduction to the banging and clattering of big banger racing began at Pukekohe that same year.

"Streets circuits are good but it's nice to be able to go back to a purpose-built race track,' says Coulthard. "There are a lot of street circuits on our calendar so it'll be nice to go back to a circuit that's always there.

"Street circuits are good as they reward a bit of bravery, but team owners don't like them too much as if you have a bit of a crash there's a bit of a mess. But you've got to take the good with the bad and I actually quite enjoy them.

"I'm really pleased the V8s are coming back to New Zealand next year. It'll be awesome. I put the news on my Facebook page and I got inundated with responses, mostly good. I'm happy we're coming back to race at Pukekohe as it provided some great racing last time the place was used.

"It was a great success story for Murph [Greg Murphy] over the years and it's good when a Kiwi wins in front of a home crowd.

Coulthard raced with Paul Morris Racing back then and it was a learning curve for him.

"I probably didn't enjoy my time at Pukekohe back then as much as I should have but I'm looking forward to it this time around," he says.

One of the longest serving motor racing exponents in the world is New Zealand's very own Kenny Smith, who has more trophies on his mantelpiece than you could shake a stick at, including a few New Zealand Grand Prix titles.

Smith has been racing competitively for 55 years and has no intention of stopping just yet. He has fond memories of Pukekohe having raced there when it opened in 1963.

"I was there when it was first built and everything had moved from Ardmore," says Smith. "It was really nice when Pukekohe came along. We had a Copper sports car back in those days and we were used to racing on tracks that weren't real circuits except for Levin.

"It was fantastic to see a circuit having been built in the middle of town. It was different to anything we'd seen before because it had a bit of elevation and the old loop made it pretty interesting as well. Better than what they have now in my opinion.

"It's great the V8 Supercars are coming back that's for sure. They're a great thing to follow."

Smith is 70 this year and there's no sign of him slowing down. He still competes at the sharp end in the big V8-powered F5000 category and is a past champion.

"I'm probably too old for the V8 Supercars these days. It would be nice to have a gallop in one but you have to be so fit to be competitive over two-and-a-half hours in one of those things.

"But, then again, when the old adrenalin is pumping you get going," says Smith.

Whether the V8 Supercars' move to Pukekohe is a success or not depends on the fans and if they turn up, and if previous evidence is anything to go by, they'll turn up in their droves.

- NZ Herald

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