Thanks to the day job requiring a mercy dash to the ‘Tron today, I managed to get a close proximity look at the venues involved with the ongoing saga of the NZ leg of the V8s. If truth be told, my interest in motorsport tends to lean towards the grass-roots end of the spectrum, where you can get up close and personal with the sights, sounds and smells of the experience. And occasionally, if you happen to know someone in the right pair of overalls, then you might even be able to sneak in a couple of crafty laps when the volunteer marshals are looking the other way.
So despite the political ructions surrounding the financial catastrophe of the Hamilton street race and the proposed multi-million dollar payout to Pukekohe, the whole affair has barely registered on my personal radar. But having taken a drive past both the past and proposed future race venues – as well as the alternative track option that Hampton Downs presents – I’m starting to understand why there may be turbulent currents in the rarified air in which the V8s operate.
Let’s be honest, Hamilton is not the jewel in the crown of urban New Zealand, while both Pukekohe and Hampton Downs need a bit of work before they can be mentioned in the same breath as Spa Francorchamps and yet as motorsport venues they all suffer from the same Achilles heel. They’re just too nice.
Motorsport fans are not normal. If anyone doubts this they should make a special effort to watch the next Rally of Great Britain where pitch black rally stages in cold, damp Welsh forests will be chock full of Parka-wearing, thermos-wielding enthusiasts, all cheerfully waiting for their heroes to come rocketing by and spray a tonne of gravel into their faces. There is something about creature comforts that acts as a repellent to the genuine motorsport fan and all of our options are simply way too luxurious.
Hamilton has all the entertainment, nightlife and comfortable hotels of a big-ish city, Pukekohe has a direct rail link to the sins and conveniences of Auckland, while Hampton Downs has been purposefully constructed to be a modern, hassle-free race facility.
When you look at great motorsport venues – by which I mean for the average fan and not the millionaires who frequent the floating gin palaces at Monaco – such as Silverstone, Le Mans and Bathurst, you will notice a recurring theme of them all being completely bereft of anything approaching civilization. A long weekend in a tent at the British Grand Prix would give a fairly accurate representation of what it is like to live in a Red Cross refugee camp. It would be easier to catch some shuteye at a bar room brawl than amongst most of the crowd at Bathurst and the lavatory facilities following the famous 24hr race have been outlawed by the Geneva convention.
It is almost as though the crowd is rebelling against the technological tsunami that is rolling over motorsport by subjecting themselves to the kind of backwards living conditions that would make a sewer rat gag. And in these environments of filth, petulance and excessive alcohol the spirit of great events are born. Atmosphere and passion is created that no amount of genteel clapping from the grandstands can ever hope to replicate.
So with this in mind, I propose that we shun Hamilton, Pukekohe and Hampton Downs and focus our efforts on finding the worst place in New Zealand with functioning roads in which to host our most prestigious motorsport events. We can mark out a track old-school style with some piles of tyres; take the millions of dollars on offer to subsidise the booze, dig a few long drops and the resulting mass of fans will take care of the rest.
Which just leaves us with the tricky decision of exactly where in clean, green NZ we can rely on to provide the ultimate in horror. Personally I think that the Moerewa 500 has a lovely ring to it, but if anyone has any better ideas, I’d love to hear them.