January has been another month of continuous work and improvements to not only the grounds but the facilities we over on site to drivers and spectators.
The new lighting system was tested and installed successfully for the first weekend of the NZ Festival of Motorsport with all the marshal posts and start finish line lights now controlled by the race director off a touch screen. This makes for a more efficient response time to any activity on track and shows how much we are at the forefront of New Zealand Motorsport.
The track extension is ahead of schedule with the foundations of the surface now clearly visible and it won’t be long until the first layers of tarmac will be laid.
The suites above pit lane were used for the first time during the festival, giving spectators and guests of Porsche a fantastic viewing position to watch the racing and relax in the comfort of the GT Lounge. There is still an opportunity to join the GT Members club here at Hampton Downs to get full use of the GT Lounge and all the other benefits of being at member here at Hampton.
Spectator viewing positions are being improved as well with new tables and benches on the deck of the pavilion and work soon to commence on the banking opposite the pit lane for a more comfortable viewing position.
New Zealand Festival of Motorsport Celebrating Porsche
The festival as always was a fantastic event celebrating the very best of New Zealand Motorsport and showcasing the history of Porsche.
It was great to see the backing of Porsche Europe for the event with a magnificent display of Porsche cars past and present in their marquee. For the first weekend two of Porsche’s finest drivers and Kiwis Earl Bamber (winner of Le Mans 24hr, 2015) and Brendon Hartley (World Endurance Champion, 2015) were there to drive the 1998 Le Mans winning LMP1 and also the 935.
On the Sunday there was a New Zealand record attempt as all the Porsche’s at the event formed up on the grid to create what was a fantastic scene of cars which stretched from the start/finish line almost to the exit of the last corner. The attempt smashed the record with a final count of 402 cars!
The racing was almost as hot as the weather but it was Ken Smith who once again was the star of the show as he took strong victories in his F5000 and dominating the headline event of the weekend. In the Pirelli Porsche Championship feature race Brian McGovern snatched victory away from Hugh Gardiner as the two were separated by three tenths as they crossed the line.
The second weekend of the Festival brought a different variety of racing as there were endurance races and more classes thrown in to the mix to make another exciting weekend of motorsport.
In the final Muscle car race the top three all crossed the line within a second of each other after a long hard fought race. It was Dale Mathers however who took the win in the end just ahead of David Sturrock and Kevin Gimblett. Ken Smith again took all the spoils in the Historic Formula Libra races, he had a fantastic record over the two weekends and it is no surprise to see that the 2017 Festival is dedicated to him!
The Porsche drivers were out again for demonstration laps but this weekend we were joined by new Porsche driver and proud Kiwi Mitch Evans! The demonstrations weren’t just left to them though as on Sunday there was a fantastic air display from a Spitfire Bomber. It was fantastic to watch and was definitely the highlight of Sunday’s activity.
The two Festival weekends celebrating Porsche were a fantastic way to start the year off here at Hampton Downs. Both weekends had a real family friendly atmosphere and we would like to thank all the marshals, organisers, HRC and all the fans that made them two weekends not to forget!
Photo credit: Matthew Hansen
Photo Credit: Alex Mitchell
Toyota Racing Series
For the final weekend of January TRS rolled in for the third round of their five round winter series. The series aims to find Asia’s next Formula 1 star but it was Brit Lando Norris that came into the weekend with the championship lead. The feature championship was backed by a fantastic set of support races so a fantastic weekend of racing was guaranteed.
It was Lando Norris who took pole position and a dominant first win as he took more of a stranglehold on the championship lead. It was a podium lock out for M2 Motorsport as Lando’s teammates Jehan Daruvala and Pedro Piquet completed the podium positions. In race 2 the reverse grid brought a lot of drama as Lando Norris charged through the field only to have contact and crash with only a few laps to go, this allowed Ferrari development driver Guanyu Zhou to take the win ahead of Kiwi Brandon Leitch. The final race of the weekend had a special prize up for grabs as the New Zealand Motor Cup was up for grabs. The oldest trophy in NZ motorsport has an illustrious list of names as previous winners such as Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Ken Smith. The race finished under safety car conditions but it was still dominated by Pedro Piquet as he took his first win in the class in front of proud Dad Nelson Piquet. Kiwi James Munro finished second after a superb drive ahead of Jehan Daruvala.
Lando Norris still extended his championship lead despite his mixed results and left Hampton Downs with over a 50 point lead of Pedro Piquet who jumped numerous positions up the championship to now be the main challenger with two rounds remaining.
Caption Competition – what do you think Brendan Hartley is saying to Mitch Evans here?
Our sister track Highlands have had a relatively quiet start to the year but they have had some A-list guests drop in to check out the stunning race track. Tony Quinn started the year with high adrenaline passenger laps for lucky prize winners on the first of January and he was accompanied by Aussie V8 driver Shane Van Gisbergan and Simon Evans from the NZ Touring Car Championship. Mitch Evans popped in for a few laps in the McLaren hot rides car and just recently former F1 driver and 2015 World Endurance Champion Mark Webber stopped by for a tour!