No profit, no race, says Highlands

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2014
Highlands Motorsport Park
TOYOTA TO GO: Jann Mardenborough just ahead of Andrew Tang in the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race in the Toyota Racing Series at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell in January.

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Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park will not host a round of the Toyota Racing Series next season.

The series has two southern and three northern rounds this year, with it returning to Ruapuna, in Christchurch, after a five-year absence and to Taupo after a one-year absence. It will continue to race at Teretonga Raceway near Invercargill.

Highlands hosted a Toyota Racing Series round in January following its successful inaugural race meeting in November, when the new track opened to the public.

General manager Mike Sentch said he was not worried about missing out on a Toyota Racing Series round this summer.

"January is not a time we want to run a race meeting anyway. We make more money running day-to-day tourism activities than holding a race meeting. Everyone thinks with race meetings you make heaps of money but by the time you pay for the infrastructure, close the park for four or five days to set up - that is a lot of lucrative income you are letting go.

"We are a race track so want race meetings, but for us it's as much about still being viable at the end of the day."

Highlands would still be holding its Highlands 101 event, which included the Australia GT Series in November, and a date was still to be set for the classics meeting again next year, he said. They were also looking to revive the Race to the Sky, he said.

Sentch sympathised with clubs such as the Timaru International Motor Raceway who had also missed out on a round, he said.

"They are big rounds for the other tracks. I know Timaru is hurting."

Many tracks, owned by clubs, were running at a loss to host some events, he says.

"There are tracks in New Zealand running absolutely broke, one is in massive debt, another admitted . . . they had $57 in the bank, another is looking at selling . . . they are club-owned tracks. Competitors are so used to paying nothing for so long they moan about paying to go anywhere."

Spokesman Mark Baker said the Toyota Racing Series always agreed rounds jointly with Motorsport New Zealand, which had final approval because of race permitting, and with the clubs and circuit owners.

Because it was five-round format to attract the internationals it was not possible to add rounds to the series so that it visited all eight of permanent circuits. The internationals and Kiwis who were heading overseas could not be here longer than five weeks because of testing and team commitments.

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- The Southland Times

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