NZ Classic Driver
PUKEKOHE PARK RACEWAY
While taking a break from working on this edition, during an online search I came across a real estate notice advertising the sale of a section of Pukekohe Park Raceway; the extended and rarely used ‘loop’ that runs alongside Manukau Road. As I read the advert the thought came to me that the track’s owner, Counties Racing Club, probably had something more on their minds than just raising a few bucks from a quick sale. That was confirmed just a few days later with the public announcement that all motorsport events at Pukekohe Park would cease as from April 3, 2023.
This marks the end of an era for motor racing in the Auckland area, one that began on January 5, 1963 with the first running of the NZIGP at Pukekohe. John Surtees won that race and over the following years the circuit would host dozens of local and international racing drivers, including Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Chris Amon, Denis Hulme and Keke Rosberg amongst many others.
I wasn’t in New Zealand during those early years with my first visit to the track being in the early 1980s when I enjoyed both classic racing and the annual Grand Prix. Over the following years I also got to drive a lot of cars around the track – test-drives rather than flat-out racing – highlights included an Austin-Healey 3000, Brock Commodore, Ford GT40 replica, Lotus Elan S2, Lotus Esprit V8 and my friend Bob Needham’s Subarupowered Stinger single-seater.
As well as stumbling around the circuit in a variety of mostly classic cars, I also spent part of one summer season in the timing bus under the watchful eye of the late Nigel Roskilly in his role as Chief Timing Marshall.
When Tony Roberts and Chris Watson opened the Hampton Downs race circuit it seemed that Pukekohe was doomed. However, the older circuit soldiered on and, unaware of the politics behind the decision, when it was announced that the high-profile Aussie V8 Supercar race would return to Pukekohe in 2013 after many years having been contested over the streets of Hamilton, a barrow-load of cash was spent upgrading the circuit when it seemed that a more logical move would’ve been to simply run the race at the more modern Hampton Downs complex.
After a gap of two years, the Aussie Supercars will return to Pukekohe Park Raceway for the ITM Supersprint (September 9-11) and that looks as if it’ll be their last visit to the track. Hampton Downs in 2023? We shall have to wait and see.
In order to mark the occasion, we’re planning to put together a retrospective feature on Pukekohe Park Raceway for inclusion in our next edition. If you have any memories of/ or photos taken at Pukekohe that you’d like to share with our readers, send them via email to: email@example.com or by snail-mail to the address listed elsewhere on this page. All contributions would need to be received by September 20 at the latest.