Supercars set to remain at Pukekohe beyond this year

Crowds have been down at Pukekohe despite the success of the New Zealand drivers.
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Crowds have been down at Pukekohe despite the success of the New Zealand drivers.

The New Zealand round of the Supercars series looks set to remain after the current contract expires later this year.

Attendances have been down for the past couple of years at the ITM Auckland Supersprint in Pukekohe and there has been doubt about whether Australasia's biggest  motor racing category would continue in New Zealand.

Last year's crowd over the weekend was 106,753, that's down from 116,544 the previous year.

However, it is understood Supercars and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed), who are significant funders of the event, are close to signing a new contract for the race to remain in New Zealand.

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An issue the 54-year-old circuit faces is that it's showing its age. The facilities are well below what would be expected for a significant sporting event like a Supercars race weekend.

Last November Supercars CEO James Warburton told Stuff that the venue needed upgrading and this would be one of the talking points during contract negotiations.

"The spectator side is fantastic, but it is always about facilities. Food and beverage, viewing platforms and the amenities," Warburton said.

"We need those things to be continually updated and that's something we talk to the government and Ateed with during our renewal process."

At last year's racing, the bumpy track surface at turns one, seven and eight had become more of an issue and although the drivers enjoy racing at the track, things like this put them off.

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Supercars are looking to expand their brand into Asia and it would no doubt be easier for them to dump  Auckland, where there is the added expense of flying the cars over, than one of the other rounds.

Ateed CEO Brett O'Riley said during last year's Supercars round at Pukekohe that he was disappointed with the crowd numbers and thought more people would have turned up to watch Shane van Gisbergen.

However it appears both sides have agreed to move forward and an announcement will be made over the next couple of months that Supercars will stay at Pukekohe.

Ateed would only supply a media statement on behalf of O'Riley when asked about the new deal.

"Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development is in ongoing discussion with Supercars about the future of an Auckland Supercars event beyond 2017," the statement read.

"We are not in a position to comment further at this stage."

Meanwhile, Ateed was also saying little the future of the Auckland Nines.

The 2018 tournament would be the last of a five-year agreement between Ateed, NRL and Duco Events.

But with attendances well down this February, there seems to be little appetite from the NRL to continue it in Auckland, while the split between David Higgins and Dean Lonergan at Duco further complicates the situation.

Despite this, the statement from Ateed says they are planning as if the Nines will be back next year.

"Ateed expects to see out the five-year contract for the Nines," O'Riley said,

"Ateed is the host city sponsor for the Nines, on behalf of Auckland Council.

"The event owner, responsible for the development and delivery of the Nines, is Duco Events and as such, any queries about the future of the NRL Auckland Nines need to be directed to Duco."

Duco co-owner Dean Lonergan for was approached for comment, but didn't respond.

 - Sunday News

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