NZ could remain a stop for Speedway Worlds

NEIL REID
Last updated 11:10 25/06/2014
Martin Smolinski
Getty
POP THE BUBBLY: Martin Smolinski of Germany celebrates winning the FIM Speedway Grand Prix at Western Springs earlier this year.

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New Zealand remains a chance of retaining its hosting rights on the Speedway World Championship calendar.

The April 5 opening round of the 2014 FIM Speedway Grand Prix marked the final year of an initial three-year deal for Auckland's Western Springs to host a round in the 12-meeting world championship.

It was feared international speedway bosses would not provide a contract extension for the event to remain in Auckland after a crowd of just 10,000 attended, well below the 20,000 fans that Western Springs promoter Bill Buckley had hoped to attract.

The 2015 world championship calendar is set to be revealed within the next three weeks, with Buckley revealing the FIM had approached him about whether he would be interested in securing rights to host the final round of the season.

The move would see the world champion being crowned on New Zealand soil.

''Instead of the first meeting, it was the last meeting that they were asking me for,'' Buckley said.

''If we were to have the last round, I would be interested in talking.''

Paul Bellamy, managing director of FIM Speedway Grand Prix global promoters BSI Speedway, told Fairfax Media on the eve of this year's Western Springs event that a decision on Auckland's hosting future would come down to ''simple economics''.

''It is a long way to bring 80-odd personnel ... riders and mechanics ... all the way down here,'' he said.

''New Zealand is a beautiful country, a fantastic place to come and visit and live. But because of the distance involved in getting here, it makes it really expensive.

''If it was only a two-hour flight we could be coming here every year.''

For the past three years, the season-opening round in Auckland has been the only event on the world championship calendar hosted outside of Europe.

But under consideration by the FIM was hosting the final two rounds of the 2015 season down under; with Melbourne and then Auckland to host meetings in late September and early October.

Buckley said he believed for the proposal to work, he would require speedway to transfer from Western Springs to Mount Smart Stadium late next year.

Western Springs was already booked out in early October 2015 for an entertainment event.

Buckley and the Auckland Council previously came to an agreement that speedway would depart Western Springs as soon as it was found an ''alternative ground''.

After initial hesitation, Buckley said he believed the sport could continue to thrive at Mount Smart.

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He said even those who wanted speedway to remain at Western Springs had to realise that the sport was now outgrowing the facilities and constraints that came with the venue which is based in a residential area.

''I can't do justice to the competitors,'' he said. ''I want to go from 12 [meetings a year] to something like 20.''

- Stuff

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