KartSport Rotorua have a come a long way from racing karts around cones in a railway yard in 1990.

Among the drivers lining up at the railway yard that year, when the club was still finding its feet, were a couple of young up-and-comers by the names of Greg Murphy and Scott Dixon - real life examples of the pathways KartSport provides.

Twenty-seven years of planning, hard work and investment later, the club has turned a swamp near Mamaku on the outskirts of Rotorua into a track and facility, fit for the best racers.

Having tested the track's suitability for major events by hosting the North Island Championships in 2014, KartSport Rotorua have now won the right to host the 2018 New Zealand Championships at Easter Weekend.


Club president Brent Hatton said it was a big deal to host such a prestigious event.

"Everyone strives to be NZ1 in any motorsport, that number one plate is key. For us, the facility has been open nearly eight years and it was built to be used for international events. So, hosting the nationals is up there.

"We had 179 entries at the North Island Championships - it went really well and we learnt a lot, we've built on that experience to where we are now," Hatton said.

He said the 1.2km track, which was 8m wide on the straights and 10m wide on the corners, was the best in New Zealand and "people want to race here".

KartSport Rotorua committee members are confident their track at Mamaku will provide for spectacular racing at the New Zealand KartSport Championships. Photo/File
KartSport Rotorua committee members are confident their track at Mamaku will provide for spectacular racing at the New Zealand KartSport Championships. Photo/File

"The calibre of racing [in New Zealand] is getting up there. Look at the likes of Brendon Hartley, he's just gone Formula 1, he started in karts, [Formula E driver] Mitch Evans started in karts - he used to race against my son, Dixon, Murphy, they're all ex-karters.

"That's really cool, it's neat to have that background and know we're nurturing that whole culture.

"The goal with nationals is to highlight this facility and bring income in to continue developing it. The goal is to get this facility to a point where maintenance is all we do."

KartSport Rotorua life member Jamie Aislabie said, when the club decided to build its own track, fellow life member Bill Mason spent months driving around Rotorua's back roads in search of the perfect location.

"They came up with this place. We stood on a mound of earth in the middle of the swamp and thought about what we could do with it.

"The track was designed and we set about getting funding, it was extremely hard, but we got it. Over $4 million has been spent here, it's amazing the support we have had," Aislabie said.

Another life member Brian Williams, who was involved in the track design, said it took about five years to get the track "across the line". In 2009 Greg Murphy became the first person to do a lap.

"You want corners you can pass on and it had to be built to a standard of elevations, gradients and cornering. It worked out quite well for the space that we had here.

"The North Island Champs were very successful and now, to host the New Zealand Champs, we've improved the facility further. It's awesome and we're definitely confident everything will be ready by Easter," Williams said.

Hatton hoped local businesses would support the event.

"Although the Giltrap Group have naming rights sponsorship for this event, my focus is to encourage local Rotorua businesses to come on board as class sponsors and assist with prize giving. I believe there is plenty of scope and opportunity for local businesses to capitalise on this event as well."