WORDS AND IMAGES BY MARK BAKER: VERITAS COMMUNICATIONS
A 13 year epic tale of passion, dedication and perseverance will be completed at the end of 2020 when Auckland’s newest race circuit is opened.
Runciman’s Kevin Hall and Manukau racer Tony McCall – both offroad racing national champions – are launching the 1.2 km Manukau International Offroad Raceway at Colin Dale Park with a ‘stadium’ race series in February-March 2021 that will bear a New Zealand Championship title and attract the fastest racers in the sport. If the Covid ‘bubble’ process allows, that may also include 2-3 Australian teams.
Kevin Hall says what started as a simple mission to find a permanent track for Counties Manukau Offroad Racing Club quickly expanded as the idea struck a chord with the former Manukau council and then with the local board and Auckland Council.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it is very satisfying to look at the track today and see it about to fulfil its potential as an international motorsport venue.”
The course is a blend of the best parts of several American offroad racetracks and has been ‘terraformed’ onto a tract of Council land at Colin Dale Park, Puhinui. With cambered corners, ‘pop-up’ jumps and 20-degree berms built by a professional racetrack building company, the course is unlike anything built for the sport in this country.
Hall says drainage is the key to making the track able to manage Auckland’s infamous ‘four seasons in one day’ weather. Underpinning the track itself is a massive $300,000 master-network of drainage that will make the raceway less susceptible to bad weather.
A further $500,000 has been spent terraforming the course and on safety barriers, while the Counties-Manukau Offroad Racing Club has supported design and other professional services to the tune of $180,000.
The whole course is part of a dedicated motorsport or ‘wheelsport’ park that includes jet sprint boats and motocross and will soon add a world class BMX facility and kartsport, replacing the recently closed Mount Wellington course. An 800-space sealed car park has been completed by Auckland Council to service all the categories that will use the park.
Offroad racing stands apart from FIA category motorsport and has its own sanctioning body. The new race series will stand apart from the main national championship which was terminated after one round by the Covid pandemic.
Kevin Hall raced at the top level of the sport for many years, then handed over his car to son Nick – also a national champion – who has helped to GPS map and develop the circuit.
Hall Sr began the work in the final term of the old Manukau City Council, and has worked closely with Auckland Council and the local board ever since.
“Let’s be clear, this kind of project simply could not have happened so close to a major population centre without the support of both council and the local board. This track will put Manukau on the map both regionally and internationally,” he said.
Tony McCall said while offroad racing is a vibrant sport, it tends to operate ‘in the boonies’ too often. Race venues close to the city are almost impossible to find.
“So having Colin Dale Park designated for these activities on the doorstep of the biggest population centre in the country is pretty special. Now we’re going to bring the show to the people!”
Both agree the new track must appeal to the local community as well as the motorsport fraternity; also, that the venue will be crucial to developing youth category drivers. Spectator features include high banked seating areas with a flat top where sun shelters can be placed, a food area, and a safe ‘bouncy castle’ zone for the younger set.
“We’re creating a new type of race event, spectator friendly and with its own TV package. It’s not easy after the pandemic, but one thing is certain. When this track hosts its first race event it will put Manukau and Auckland on the global motorsport map as never before,” said McCall.