Tourism tops Toyotas for one park owner
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.