19 Apr 2024

Supercars set to drive millions into Taupō economy

1:05 pm on 19 April 2024
New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen wins the last ever race at Pukekohe.

New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen won the final race at Pukekohe in September 2022. File photo. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fast cars have accelerated the number of fans and dollars pouring into Taupō from New Zealand and Australia.

Supercar racing has returned to New Zealand and is being held for the first time at the Taupō International Motorsport Park.

The ITM Taupō SuperSprint kicked off on Friday and will run till Sunday.

Taupō mayor David Trewavas said securing the event was a career highlight and exciting for the district.

He said hotels were fully booked in Taupō and nearby Tūrangi, and people attending the event were also staying in Rotorua, Napier and Hamilton.

Alongside domestic fans, many visitors are coming from Australia - nearly 66,000 people are expected.

Trewavas said that was expected to bring $6 million to $7m a day to the region.

Taupō District Council events manager Steve Giles said after a tough few years for the tourism industry it was thrilled to be playing host.

He hoped to see the current three-year agreement with Supercars extended.

"Ultimately, we want to become the new home of Supercars here in New Zealand, something that Pukekohe had successfully for many years up until 2022," Giles said.

"As a country, we missed Supercars here last year in 2023, and we can't wait to forge a new relationship with Supercars moving forward."

'Region heaving with people'

Taupō International Motorsport Park chief executive Josie Spillane said excitement levels at the park were high and the town was thriving.

About 25,000 spectators are expected at the park each day.

"The community has just embraced it so wholeheartedly. The region is heaving with people.

"The bars, the restaurants, the activities, they're all thriving and we hear so much as well that so many people who have made the trip across the ditch are extending their time here and they're off to explore so much more that New Zealand has to offer."

Scott McLaughlin crosses the finish line to win race two of the 2018 Supercars event at Pukekohe ahead of fellow Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen.

Scott McLaughlin crosses the finish line to win race two of the 2018 Supercars event at Pukekohe. File photo. Photo: Photosport/Mark Horsburgh

Spillane said it was incredible to see such a big event in Taupō.

"We are just blown away and I think it's a testament to Kiwi race fans that Supercars have been able to put a sold-out sign on the gates of Taupō International Motorsport Park for Saturday and Sunday."

A few tickets remain for Friday's event.

The Taupō Car Club is running a team of 400 volunteers at the park this weekend.

Its president Damian White said they would be hosting the volunteers in their club rooms.

Those volunteers go as young as 13-year-old Zyan Dheda, an upcoming member of the club.

"I'm very excited to be helping out in such a big event," he said.

Meanwhile, fellow volunteer Paul Crawford, who had been at the club for 30 years, would be spending some time on the track this weekend as an observer, following the cars on their first lap of the track.

"Basically we cover them for their first lap in case there's an incident."

Richie Stanaway (Boost Mobile Holden Commodore). 2019 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Round 11. Mount Panorama, Bathurst NSW on Wednesday 9 October 2019. Photo Clay Cross / photosport.nz

Richie Stanaway. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

New Zealand driver Richie Stanaway said none of the drivers have driven the Taupō track.

That put everyone on a "clean slate", he said.

He was also happy to be having the opportunity to be racing closer to home.

"As a New Zealander, getting the opportunity to race back at home once a year gives us a chance to feel what it's like for all the Australian drivers that get to race at home on all the other rounds. So it's something that we really appreciate."

Traffic congestion expected

For those heading along this weekend, Waka Kotahi spokesperson Andy Oakley said they should expect heavy traffic.

"Anybody who is travelling on SH1 and SH5 through the central North Island should allow plenty of time and expect delays as they get near Taupō."

Both of the Broadlands Rd exits from SH1 are closed from 6am to 2pm with access to parking for the event available from the Centennial Ave Interchange only.

Traffic Management is in place to help guide spectator vehicles and manage traffic flows.

The Transport Agency advises anyone staying in Taupō to use the SH1 East Taupō interchange rather than Wairakei Dr for easier access to town.

Trewavas said buses were also going continuously from the CBD for people wanting to get to the event.

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