The New Zealand round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has been confirmed, with Taupo hosting the sixth round of the Series on 21 January 2007.
The announcement was made in Auckland today by A1GP chief operating officer David Clare in the presence of Prime Minister Helen Clark, key Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard and the race managers.
Taupo will be the first meeting of 2007. The event has been sanctioned by MotorSport New Zealand, and will be managed and promoted jointly by A1GP, MIT (the operators of the Taupo Motorsport Park) and A1 Team.NZL.
New Zealand franchise holder Colin Giltrap says the A1GP round will be the biggest motorsport event seen in New Zealand for 50 years.
“Not since the halcyon days of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in the 1950s have we hosted such a major motorsport event,” Mr Giltrap said. “This is a major coup for motorsport and will have far-reaching benefits for the country as a whole – economically and from a profile perspective.”
More than 20 countries compete in the nation versus nation series, which starts its second season in the Netherlands on 1 October, and the London-based Clare says A1GP is thrilled to be heading to New Zealand.
“Given A1’s growth and the increasing popularity of motorsport, it is an opportunity that needed to be seized now and I’m sure Taupo will host a memorable event and showcase this beautiful country to the world,” Mr Clare said.
“New Zealand always punches above its weight on the world stage and the team’s performance in finishing fourth in the inaugural championship simply highlighted the Kiwi team’s talent and professionalism.”
The New Zealand Government has confirmed it will provide $2 million over the next three years to enable the Taupo Motorsport Park to upgrade its facilities.
Trevor Mallard, the Minister for Economic Development as well as the Minister for Sport and Recreation, said A1GP’s drive to include Taupo was another example of the country’s ability to host world-class events.
“This is a major achievement for New Zealand motorsport and a huge fillip for the tourism and event industries,” Mr Mallard said.
“We’re eagerly anticipating the Rugby World Cup and World Rowing Champs in 2011. Now, we have a prestigious motorsport event taking place and it’s just around the corner.
“I’m sure New Zealanders will embrace such a quality event being held in our backyard and, as a government, we’re pleased to have helped with funding and will now be examining how we can leverage this significant opportunity.”
The countries involved in A1GP account for 80% of the world’s population and David Clare is certain the impressive media coverage of the inaugural Series will be enhanced in its second year.
In Season One A1GP had an average live television audience of 7.7 million for each round across 37 networks in 120 countries, with 127 different programmes generated per round. Some 2000 media representatives attended the 11 events.
When the A1GP roadshow, including its own TV production arm, international media and the teams of more than 20 nations, descend on Taupo, the event is conservatively estimated to be worth more than $23 million to the New Zealand economy.
“It’s why we fought so hard to bring A1GP to Taupo,” said David Steele, Managing Director of track managers MIT.
“We’re determined to make this a truly special round and ensure its ongoing prominence on the A1 calendar because the economic benefits to Taupo and the country are so profound, especially as it’s an annual competition, not a one-off.”
Mr Steele said the Taupo track was being upgraded to meet the requirements needed to run races of A1GP’s calibre and he promised a fast and exciting circuit.
“But it’s not just the track that will receive a makeover,” he said. “The government funding will be used primarily to build a pit lane complex, as well as media and corporate facilities in keeping with the stature of an A1GP event.”
Mr Steele said accommodation had already been booked for the A1 teams and “great strides” had already been made in logistics and planning, from ticketing and entertainment through to crowd safety and traffic management.
“We will work alongside Motorsport New Zealand and A1 Team.NZL to release details as soon as we possibly can. Tickets should be on sale early September.”
The weekend will provide a feast of action for motor racing fans with MotorSport New Zealand announcing that the Taupo round of the New Zealand Championships, originally scheduled for March, will now be brought forward to coincide with the A1GP meeting.
Steven Kennedy, the President of MotorSport New Zealand, said the clash with the Timaru round of the championships has been resolved and all the racing classes will participate in Taupo.
“Achieving A1GP’s target date has required a major revision to the MotorSport New Zealand calendar and I would like to thank the South Island clubs and the six different championship racing classes who have accommodated the shift in their proposed meeting dates to March,” Mr Kennedy said.
“We are delighted to see the A1GP race in New Zealand and will work with the A1GP organisation to ensure a successful Taupo meeting.”
Colin Giltrap is used to life in the fast lane, but he is still aghast at the speed with which New Zealand has embedded itself in A1GP’s consciousness.
“This time last year we were announcing that we were proud to have secured one of the exclusive seats on board the A1GP express,” he said.
“Then we went and finished a prominent fourth in the historic first-ever Series. Now we’re confirmed to host a round, one of only 12 countries to be accorded that honour.
“It has been a remarkable ride…and being in Taupo next January knowing that the motorsport world is taking great interest will be simply incredible.”