Pukekohe is a place Greg Murphy holds dearly and it's part of the reason why he will struggle when racing gets underway at next month's ITM 400 Auckland.
The 40-year-old King of Pukekohe won four rounds at the famous track (2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005) before V8 Supercars relocated to Hamilton in 2008.
Racing returns on April 12-14 after a five-year absence and there's the added interest around the new generation Car of the Future, but local fans won't see Murphy in one of them. He had a couple of lean years in the V8 Supercars and is now racing the New Zealand V8 SuperTourers - he leads after two rounds this year - and admits he will be a little "grumpy'' when the ITM 400 gets under way.
He tried to secure backing for a wildcard entry but will have to content himself with being the event's ambassador.
Murphy surveyed the changes to the track today and gave them his seal of approval. The raceway has undergone a $6.6 million facelift that has resulted in Pukekohe returning to the V8 Supercars calendar at least until 2017 and V8 Supercars bosses touting it as a world-class facility.
The biggest change sees three new turns (Turns 5, 6 and 7) added towards the end of the back straight. There are also improvements in new concrete safety barriers, new kerbings, some resurfacing, new team garages with corporate viewing above pit lane, new race control buildings complete with podium and a new bridge which will allow fans to converge on the infield and pits.
Pukekohe Park Raceway has always been a fast track and has tested the likes of Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart since opening as a permanent track in 1963. Although top speed will drop from about 270kmh to 255kmh because of the changes, the new turns are expected to become a focal point as drivers jostle for position around the sharp but wide corners.
''[The new turns] have changed things massively,'' Murphy said. "It's a beautiful bit of design as far as a race track is concerned. How that changes racing is the bit we are all going to sit on the edge of our seats and wait for but there will be good passing opportunities.
"It's going to be great for spectators. I don't see how the changes couldn't be. I was a little sceptical about a couple of the new corners but, after seeing them now, I see them as a fantastic addition.
"The rest of the track is unchanged in its nature and so it is still fast and flowing with all the bumps that makes Pukekohe such a great circuit.''By Michael Brown Email Michael