The penultimate round of the Supercars Championship, held last weekend at Pukekohe was a great event.

No doubt about that. A Kiwi winner in race #1. A Kiwi driver fighting for the lead in race #2 and, as the series goes into the very last round of the 2017 season, three Kiwi drivers in with a mathematical chance of winning the championship.

Pukekohe Park Raceway once again proved it is the ideal circuit for the Supercars series with atmosphere aplenty, great viewing and perhaps most important of all, a track on which the drivers love to drive and one that provides some fast, exciting, old school racing.

But, and there has to be a big but here, the place is tired, shabby and in need of some major investment to bring it up to a standard that complements this huge sporting event.


The grand old lady that is 'Puke' will never compete with some of the multi-million dollar concrete miscreations built in the last few decades around the world and should never try to do so as the circuit itself, by design, is fast and challenging in a uniquely non-artificial way.

Pukekohe deserves to be a major part of the Supercars calendar for years to come and by all accounts that is what is going to happen if and when a deal can be worked out.

Money has been spent, almost $4 million apparently, in the last few years to try and upgrade the facilities, with varying success, and the recently appointed management are doing all they can, on a limited budget, to develop the old girl and for that they should be commended.

The new pit garages are a huge and welcome improvement but the partial track resurfacing was met with much less enthusiasm by the V8 drivers.

As the track ages further the enhancements of the past have been like an ageing model increasing the colour and thickness of the lipstick or painting on more mascara and adding a bit of botox. Superficial band aids when serious surgery is more the solution.

This weekend also sees the penultimate Formula One race of the season at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, historically known as Interlagos, part of the huge city, population over 12 million, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Brendon Hartley taking another step towards a possible full time position with the Toro Rosso team

In many ways Pukekohe and Interlagos are similar, like distant cousins.

As Pukekohe has been a racing circuit of huge character since 1963, a challenging favourite of drivers and a partisan crowd but with age and infirmity slowly creeping in as advancing years took their toll with facilities in desperate need of upgrade, so has the situation been mirrored at Interlagos, opened in 1940, this most challenging of all the South American circuits.

Now completely surrounded by housing, much of it in the form of slums and 'favelas' this characterful track actually made Pukekohe look relatively pristine.

The small and sparse toilets forced many a brave mechanic to blanch at the thought of actually using them preferring to walk with clenched buttocks until the blessed relief of the hotel room hove into sight in the evening.

The paddock area behind the garages was no more than 4 metres wide in some parts and the garages themselves were riddled with leaky roofs, badly smelling drains and in the evenings and nights small, furry, four legged animals scurried along fearlessly.

Outside the track the congested local approach roads, constantly in a state of traffic chaos and gridlock, could also breed similar animals, but of the two legged kind, often jamming guns in team vehicles and demanding money.

In no way am I suggesting that any of this is remotely similar to the environs and good people of Pukekohe and the surrounding area but there is a parallel to be seen in that without constant maintenance and improvements the threat of actually losing the main game visitors, Formula 1 and Supercars respectively, to these venues must remain a real one.

Interlagos has the added pressure of being sited on a very valuable piece of real estate in the suburbs of a huge city and that, I am told, is not a situation that in any way affects Pukekohe these days with a 'ring fenced' boundary.

In the last three years some $110 million dollars have been spent upgrading the Interlagos facilities but that may still not be enough to keep Formula 1 there after the contract expires in 2020. The likelihood of no Brazilian driver after the final retirement of Felipe Massa from Formula One will mean no Brazilian crowd.

The Supercars event and the racing circuit in general is what keeps Pukekohe Park in business. The profits from motorsport activities allow the Counties Racing Club to carry on with what can only be nowadays a hobby for the few.

The superb horse racing surface and track conditions are indeed a credit to the club but a similar amount of care and attention should also be spent on a continuous upgrades to that which generates the income in the first place. The motorsport fans and spectators.

There was a deluge of decent proportions at Pukekohe on the Saturday, forcing the Supercars management to scrap qualifying and that deluge had the predictable effect on the spectator car parks with vehicles actually becoming stranded in a sea of mud.

The weather forecast indicated more rain to come overnight and that surely would prompt the organisers, or those responsible, to do something about the mud. But no. On Sunday morning those arriving at the track, the teams, drivers corporate guests and fans alike, were forced to walk through a muddy, swampy mess to exit the car parks. Surely a couple of truck loads of bark chip would have helped.

The huge Penske organisation is now heavily involved in the Supercars series and that most famous name in American racing, the Andretti Autosport organisation are soon to join in. Rumour has it that Chip Ganassi Racing, not to be left out, are also thinking of getting involved. These teams will bring a professionalism to the series the likes of which have not yet been witnessed.

As quaint as Pukekohe is, as the love affair between drivers and the track continues to blossom, as much as we, the fans, think we have a right to have the series racing in New Zealand, Supercars Australia is also looking to expand it's horizons with races in Asia.
Singapore is tipped to be on the radar with other venues also 'in discussions' and then perhaps with these new American teams bringing in more worldwide sponsors to the series, racing at the grand old lady will not hold the attraction it once did. Distant echoes of the World Rally Championship perhaps.

I understand that much of the revenue gathered from the event goes back to Australia but the support of the fans, the support of the major sponsors, of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) and all the others involved must be rewarded with support from the track in return and that support can only come from a continued investment to ensure that the 'Grand Old Lady' reverses her deterioration and holds fast as the finest track in the country on which these growling monsters can race.