Tourism tops Toy­otas for one park owner

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS -

High­lands Mo­tor­sport Park’s gen­eral man­ager is shrug­ging off miss­ing out on the Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries next sea­son say­ing their tourism oper­a­tion is worth more.

High­lands hosted a Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries round in Jan­uary fol­low­ing its suc­cess­ful first race meet­ing in Novem­ber, when the new track opened to the pub­lic.

How­ever, the next sea­son the se­ries will re­turn to Rua­puna, in Christchurch, af­ter a five-year ab­sence. It will con­tinue to race at Tere­tonga Race­way near In­ver­cargill.

Gen­eral man­ager Mike Sentch said he was not wor­ried about miss­ing out on a Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries round this sum­mer.

‘‘Jan­uary is not a time we want to run a race meet­ing any­way. We make more money run­ning day-to­day tourism ac­tiv­i­ties than hold­ing a race meet­ing. Ev­ery­one thinks with race meet­ings you make heaps of money but by the time you pay for the in­fra­struc­ture, close the park for four or five days to set up – that is a lot of lu­cra­tive in­come you are let­ting go.’’

The busi­ness was thriv­ing as a tourist oper­a­tion and was still ex­pand­ing in the cor­po­rate and con­fer­ence mar­ket.

‘‘Last week we had three car com­pa­nies want to come to have con­fer­ences here. People have done the Shotover Jet so want some­thing new and dif­fer­ent.’’

How­ever, race meet­ings were still an im­por­tant part of the oper­a­tion.

‘‘We are a race track so want race meet­ings, but for us it’s as much about still be­ing vi­able at the end of the day.’’

High­lands would still be hold­ing its High­lands 101 event, which in­cluded the Aus­tralia GT Se­ries in Novem­ber, and a date was still to be set for the clas­sics meet­ing again next year, he said. They were also look­ing to re­vive the Race to the Sky, he said.

Sentch sym­pa­thised with clubs such as the Ti­maru In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Race­way who had also missed out on a round, he said.

‘‘They are big rounds for the other tracks. I know Ti­maru is hurt­ing.’’

Many tracks, owned by clubs, were run­ning at a loss to host some ‘‘Com­peti­tors are so used to pay­ing noth­ing for so long they moan about pay­ing to go any­where.’’

Spokesman Mark Baker said the Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries al­ways agreed rounds jointly with Mo­tor­sport New Zealand, which had fi­nal ap­proval be­cause of race per­mit­ting, and with the clubs and cir­cuit own­ers.

Be­cause it was five-round for­mat to at­tract the in­ter­na­tion­als it was not pos­si­ble to add rounds to the se­ries so that it vis­ited all eight of per­ma­nent cir­cuits. The in­ter­na­tion­als and Ki­wis who were head­ing over­seas could not be here longer than five weeks be­cause of test­ing and team com­mit­ments.

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