As the Motorsport New Zealand Race Championship Series takes shape at Teretonga this weekend it is worth considering the contribution the circuit has made to the region.
It is doubtful that any other sporting venue in Southland has provided more or better international competition on a regular basis over the past 50-plus years.
This weekend, in the Toyota Racing Series alone, 13 nations are represented. As well as the New Zealand contingent drivers from the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden, Estonia and Malaysia will line up on the grid.
Several Australians will also appear in the NZV8 Touring Car class as well as in Formula Ford and the NZ Six category. This is not a rarity for the circuit, however, as it has been providing Southlanders with top class international competition since it opened in 1957.
In the early days the circuit was part of the Tasman Series which saw the Formula 1 stars of the era visiting the circuit annually with World Champions such as Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart racing at the track. With the demise of the Tasman Series the focus changed slightly but the international names have continued to come.
Finnish driver Keke Rosberg raced there in 1977 and 1978 before becoming World Formula 1 Champion in 1982, and that has been the pattern in the modern era with huge numbers of up and coming international drivers racing at Teretonga. Many of them have gone on to success in prestigious races and championships throughout the world, including the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.
Drivers from Norway, Italy, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Thailand, Austria, Canada and France and even countries as diverse as Iceland and Bahrain have featured in the Toyota Racing Series. The circuit's memorabilia area highlights Formula 1 stars and world champions who have appeared at Teretonga and again it shows the diversity of competitors from around the world including those from Mexico, Belgium and Japan.
Many of New Zealand's best who have gone on to international stardom have also raced at the circuit from the days of Chris Amon, Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren through to Scott Dixon, Mitch Evans, Brendon Hartley and Shane Van Gisbergen.
Australian V8 Supercar stars such as Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy and Fabian Coulthard have also thrilled the big crowds that always flock to the circuit.
- The Southland Times