The support of seven city and district councils in the Horizons region played a key role in the decision to award a multi-year contract to host the New Zealand Grand Prix to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon.
The New Zealand Grand Prix (NZGP) is one of only two current national Grand Prix events that are not part of the Formula One World Championship (the other being the Macau Grand Prix), and was first run in 1950. It’s currently the season finale for New Zealand’s premier single seater racing category, the Toyota Racing Series (TRS). The TRS-based NZGP has been hosted by Manfeild since 2008.
The NZGP hosting rights involved a joint decision between MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ), official race championship promoter Speed Works Events and Toyota New Zealand.
The opportunity to host the event for the next three to five years attracted proposals from Manfeild in the Manawatu and Hampton Downs Motorsport Park mid-way between Auckland and Hamilton, as well as an expression of interest from Pukekohe Park.
With the 2016 appointment by MSNZ of Speed Works as the promoter of the premier race championships, which include the Toyota Racing Series and the New Zealand Grand Prix, came the call for more work to help this prestigious race regain the status and profile it once had.
The 2017 NZGP was a joint venture between Speed Works and Manfeild, and attracted nearly double the spectator numbers of the previous year following the implementation of a community engagement programme and event promotion plan.
MSNZ president Wayne Christie says: “There is already tremendous momentum in what Manfeild and Speed Works were able to achieve with the 2017 New Zealand Grand Prix. The tangible support of this prestigious New Zealand motor race from the combined regional councils is an important aspect of Manfeild’s proposal which will undoubtedly contribute significantly to helping Speed Works and Manfeild continue to grow the public profile and stature of this event.”
Christie adds: “We appreciate the interest shown in the NZGP hosting rights by Tony Quinn and his professional team at Hampton Downs, and also our colleagues at Pukekohe Park. However, with such energy and commitment evident from Manfeild and their supporting councils, our decision clearly went their way.”
Speed Works’ director Geoff Short says: “It was a relatively simple decision to go with Manfeild – they really want to grow the Grand Prix, making it the status event that it should be, and where we want to take it too.”
Short was impressed by the professional presentation by Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith, Manawatu District mayor Helen Worboys and MP Ian McKelvie of the Manfeild bid. “It was a comprehensive proposal with supporting letters from the mayors of Wellington, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Napier and Hastings – the wider Horizons region really got behind wanting to host the event in Manawatu. They’ve been very proactive with suggestions on how we can promote the event and ensure value to the local economy and ratepayers. This is unlike any other kind of support I’ve seen for motorsport in recent years.”
Short says that he would have been happy to support either venue, but it really came down to the quality and commitment evident in the proposals.
Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane emphasises how the regional support underpinned the Manfeild bid. “The support of the seven councils in the Horizons region is significant, as is the work our councils have done in finding additional support from funding agencies.”
Mrs Keane says it’s the first time in Manfeild’s history that all the councils have come together, united, to say they want an event here.
“We are the closest race track to Wellington and there are a million people within a two-hour radius of this facility. It made sense to ask all these councils to support us with this proposal,” Mrs Keane says. “They’ve come through as they understand the importance of the event.”
Among the initiatives implemented by Manfeild for the 2017 NZGP was the launch of a new smartphone app, engagement and visits from local schools, discounted ticket offers for locals and successful business sector competitions in the district to promote the event.
“Having the Toyota drivers speak at dinners, interviewed by the media, etc – these are things we’ve done before, but they definitely had greater emphasis and cut-through this year,” says Mrs Keane. “The key to our success this year has been the support of our councils and the community– we’ve never had this level of support before so now we look forward to building on what we already achieved this year.”
Steve Boyce, Toyota New Zealand manager of motorsport, adds: “We are pleased to learn that Manfeild’s proposal has won them the right to host the New Zealand Grand Prix and we look forward to the best TRS Grand Prix in 2018.”