NZ Classic Driver
ALLAN DICK: A PERSONAL VIEW
I’m well aware that my views on the closure of Pukekohe motor racing circuit are not those of popular opinion. Most people are saddened to see the old warhorse close. I’m sad that it didn’t happen decades ago. I was sad beyond tears to see Wigram close, but not Puke’.
It was a miracle that Pukekohe was ready to host the New Zealand Grand Prix on January 5, 1963 and full credit for that must go to the New Zealand Grand Prix Association, including the redoubtable Ron Frost.
In many ways it was marginal for the standards of the time, but for the next 15 or 20 years it served its purpose, hosting New Zealand’s most important motor races — the Grand Prix, the long-distance B&H meetings and top-line national Gold Star events. Those were the Glory Days.
But it was a complex arrangement — a strip of tarseal owned by a motor racing organisation, on land owned by a horse racing organisation and leased out by arrangement to other clubs as well as the GP.
And those who ran Puke’ on racing days were not universally loved — the track became synonymous with bullies in white coats. As an example, there was the famous incident where a sports car driver hurtled down the back straight, had his brakes fail and flew across the creek, across the road, across the front lawn of a house before eventually stopping. The only way back into the circuit was via the main gate where officials wanted the driver to pay the full public entry fee! And there was always a suspicion at Puke’ about ‘bloody South Islanders’, maybe because of the number of times the ‘Timaru Motor Racing Mafia’ stymied the Aucklanders. There was always, in earlier days, a “them and us” attitude.
Marginal when built, after 20 years or so Pukekohe was tired, bumpy and unsafe. The facilities were primitive, catering was awful and the crowds which had once flocked to the place, stayed away.
In the late eighties and early nineties, it was clear that Pukekohe’s days should have been over. It was becoming increasingly dangerous for drivers and the few spectators who bothered to attend, the track was bumpy and the facilities nightmarish.