Motorsport: Rival track joins Manfeild in race to host NZ Grand Prix

Toyota Racing Series, Manfeild Motorsport Park, Feidling. Photo / John Cowpland / Photosport
Toyota Racing Series, Manfeild Motorsport Park, Feidling. Photo / John Cowpland / Photosport

The race is on to host next year's New Zealand Grand Prix with at least two tracks putting their hand up to stage the Toyota Racing Series finale.

Manfeild staged the 2017 edition of the famous race on Sunday - the final year of an existing agreement - but over the coming weeks the promoter will talk to rival tracks and make a decision.

Hampton Downs owner Tony Quinn has been vocal about wanting to move the Grand Prix to his North Waikato track.

Manawatu track Manfeild, which has been home to the Grand Prix for most of the past decade, is desperate to retain the hosting rights and organisers made a strong appeal for support from the local community this year to help retain the event.

While they didn't attract a massive audience, there was a clear improvement on previous seasons.

"There was no doubt the crowd numbers were much better than in previous years so the campaign around bums on seats worked for us," said Manfeild boss Julie Keane.

"We are very happy with the outcome. I don't know what attributes MotorSport NZ are going to ultimately use to determine how they are going to judge the best location for it.

"At the end of the day they'll be the judge of whether we have done enough to retain it but we hope that what we did do opened their eyes."

Quinn believes the improvements are too little, too late.

"Now that Quinny and Hampton Downs have put their hands up the incumbents have thought 'wow we need to do something to keep it'," the millionaire businessman said.

"They had a long, long time to fix things and now there's noise coming from somewhere else they have started saying this is what we are going to do. They should have already been doing that."

One factor that will come into play is government funding, with local Manawatu councils pledging to support their local track's bid.

"The Grand Prix is far greater than just Manfeild itself - it needs to be something the entire region gets behind," Keane said.

"Both our mayors of Palmerston North City and Manawatu District were here on the weekend and I spoke to them and there is a very clear message that it has to be a proposal that goes to the promoter from not just Manfeild, but also the region."

Hampton Downs, despite its close proximity to Auckland and Hamilton, is unlikely to be able to gain any local government support, although Quinn's pockets are particularly deep.

"It is healthy for the sport," he said. "The only thing I'm pissed about is Manfeild has government money to throw at it when maybe there are better things for them to be spending that on."

Meanwhile, Quinn said he has had discussions with the proposed promoters and would entertain the idea of a joint-promotion of the event should his track win out.

"There is one guy doing well promoting motorsport in New Zealand and that is Geoff Short but I still don't think he would have the confidence to make it right.

"It is a big risk putting on these types of events and bad weather could ruin you.

"I would work with him ... let the best option win."

- NZ Herald

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