20 June 2019
Work has begun to resurface Pukekohe Park as part of ongoing upgrades to Auckland’s only race track continue.
Famed for being one of the fastest circuits in the country that requires high levels of commitment, the upgrades signal plans to grow motor racing at the circuit.
A section of the front straight as well as most of Turn 1 through to the exit of Turn 4 are being ripped up and repaved. Machinery moved in on Tuesday and it is expected the upgrades will be completed by the end of this week.
Late last year Pukekohe Park went through a management change that saw Paul Fallon come on-board as Motorsport Manager and Gary Stirling as Circuit Manager.
Both have a breadth of experience in the sport running circuits and events. Fallon used to manage Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park while Stirling was the circuit manager at nearby Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in it's early years.
Almost all of Turn 1 through to Turn 4 was completely torn up by Tuesday evening
Speaking with velocitynews.co.nz on at Pukekohe Park, Fallon said the upgrades were part of plans to try and encourage more organisers and competitors to race at the circuit, particularly motor bikes and single seaters.
"We’ve had quite a few conversations with the motor bike guys and have been listening to what they’ve been saying about what we could do to improve the facility and to try encourage more bikes back on the track,” Fallon said.
"It’s an awesome facility, it’s been around since 1962, bikes are a big part of motorsport in New Zealand. We’re constantly working on how we can improve the experience for cars and bikes.”
One of the primary concerns for Pukekohe Park and the riders until now has been the previous repair work done on the track surface. Crack repairs have been filled with a sealant (pictured below). The slippery sealant poses a risk for the bikes with a small contact patch, especially in the rain.
The high speed Turn 1 through to Turn 4 were the biggest areas of note. Thankfully, much of the circuit has already been resurfaced elsewhere since upgrades on the circuit began in 2013. A complete resurface along the front straight and at the hairpin are expected to take place in the future.
Markings at Turn 1 indicate where the circuit will be removed
A small section through Turn 1 was resurfaced when drifting returned to the circuit, so that will not need to be torn up.
Additionally, significant drainage upgrades are being carried out while the resurfacing takes place. In years past Turn 1 has been prone to flooding during heavy sudden downpours.
"It’s something that again has always been part of Pukekohe, but we know where the issue lies,” Fallon said.
"What we’re doing is putting a subsoil drain through. The pipe is a nova-coil pipe, so it’s a subterranean system that the water actually soaks into. The whole idea is to get the water off the circuit and onto the grass.
"We’re hoping to get rid of 70 per cent of the water that congregates on Turn 2 before it gets down to Turn 1. We’ve spent a lot of time studying it to figure out the best way to do it.”
The subterranean drainage pipe that has been layed down at Turn 1
The resurfacing is just one element of several significant planned changes to the circuit to improve safety. Additional adjustments to the circuit are currently being investigated and will hopefully be ratified by the FIA and MotorSport New Zealand inspectors in the coming months. It’s hoped those will also aid in garnering interest from motor cycle riders.
The resurfacing may also prove attractive for organisers of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, who in recent years have expressed an interest in returning to the former home of the New Zealand Grand Prix.
"Because we have so many different classes that run here at moment and some new ones that have come back since we’ve been here, they’re all saying it isn’t as bad as what they thought it was.
"Absolutely, we’d love for the Toyota Racing Series to come and have a test, but we want to get this work done and see where we get to with that.”