Supercars positive on Newcastle and NZ returns

Supercars is not going to New Zealand in 2023. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Supercars is not going to New Zealand in 2023. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

The return of the Newcastle 500 and a new Kiwi event next year are looking positive, according to Supercars supremo Shane Howard.

Speaking exclusively to Speedcafe, Howard expressed confidence that the popular Newcastle street race event will be renewed, with a decision just weeks away.

He also confirmed that Taupo International Motorsport Park is a leading contender to host NZ’s return in 2024, with a circuit visit by a Supercars delegation this coming week.

Howard outlined what has to happen in the coming few weeks for the Newcastle 500 to be renewed as the season-opener from next year.

“The state government and Destination New South Wales are reviewing it, as well as the city of Newcastle,” he said. “There’s a process to go through with that.

“We think everybody would like to be back at Newcastle – we’ve just got to make sure that it’s delivering for all partners in that event.

“But I think we’ll get a favourable result out of Newcastle.”

Howard is looking for an early verdict to add to his plan to lock in the 2024 calendar by the Bathurst 1000 in early October at the latest.

“I’d like to have a decision, really, by the end of May,” he said. “We’re going through the government process and it’ll be helpful if it’s resolved soon.

“As I’ve said before, I’d like to be able to get the calendar locked in prior to Bathurst at the latest. If we can put the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle pretty early, that would be very helpful.”

Another piece of that puzzle is New Zealand, with Taupo emerging as a viable candidate to replace Pukekohe after this year’s trans-Tasman absence.

“We’re well into the process,” Howard told Speedcafe and the Parked Up Plus podcast. “It’s been quite lengthy. As I’ve said previously, with no circuit actually in the Auckland area, we’ve presented the opportunity to Major Events New Zealand and they’re in full process of our evaluating submission.”

The Taupo track – now pronounced ‘Toe-paw’ in deference to the region’s Maori heritage – is located in the centre of NZ’s north island.

The circuit previously hosted A1GP and is close to the Lake Taupo resort town, on the banks of NZ’s largest fresh water body of water and also famous for hot water springs.

It is owned by Scottish-born Australasian entrepreneur racer Tony Quinn, who also operates Hampton Downs just outside the Auckland region, the boutique Highlands Park on NZ’s South Island and Queensland Raceway.

Howard admitted Taupo had joined Hampton Downs as a leading contender.

“Obviously, there are two circuits that really could work – Hampton Downs and Taupo,” he said. “We’ll be sending some people over to have a look at Taupo.

“I’d be hoping we could get a position [on either] at the end of May, because if it goes longer than that, it starts to get difficult to really get a [2024] calendar into good shape.”

Formerly Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo is an FIA Grade 3 track, qualifying to host Supercars.

Howard expressed confidence that the NZ federal government would support a Supercars event at Taupo.

“A lot of governments think favourably of supporting events in regional areas,” he said. “And ‘Toe-paw’ has been mentioned as an opportunity, so we’ll have a look at it.”

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