North Island’s new adventure playground

A mere stone’s throw from both Auckland and Hamilton is a place that you may well have driven past and written off as just another racetrack and until recently you’d have been right. Although it was (and is) a very good circuit, a racetrack is primarily what Hampton Downs is all about – That is however until very recently.

Under NZ motorsport visionary Tony Quinn’s new command, Hampton Downs will soon offer up a host of features and experiences to delight every family member, from the diehard petrol head to the coffee connoisseur, all the while playing host to local and international events and to the myriad of car Marques alike. Sound interesting? Let me tell you more…

On last weekend’s cold and foggy Sunday, we were invited to the ‘Waikato Hamptons’ to be one of the first to play on their new International track plus take a tour of what the 400 acre site has (and will have) to offer – we thought that it was only fitting that we brought along Ford to join in the fun and be first to drive their new Focus RS.

With visibility (let’s say) limited, the headlights of not just one but two (one White and one Blue) Focus RS’s penetrated the whiteout and both were escorted by a bright orange GT Mustang – it was evidently going to be a fun day. We immediately took the opportunity to grab some sinister and moody press shots in the pea soup out on the home straight; before heading to the pits for some interior pics. While we were there; we spotted the first of the massive changes that had been made to Hampton – a lick of paint. Ok that may sound pretty basic but the tired old garages that were there previously have been ‘lifted’ by a bright array of defining colours, that and of course the fact that they have built a second tier of international spec’d premium lounges (that can host ViP guests, parties and prestige car launches) up above. So maybe the change is more than just a lick of paint.

Anyway, while the photo shoot was underway, commercial manager Michael Marsden took us on a tour. First stop was the giant building under construction near the ‘old’ entrance. Michael explained that part of it will (apparently) soon house a prominent car Marque but alongside it will be a (past, present and future) Auto museum and a full time café. In front of all this is the new go-kart track, this will be a taxing multi gradient course that is open for the public to just turn up and enjoy, with ‘not your normal speed’ karts that are on the way here as we speak.

Next stop was the drifting course, a massive piece of tarmac that will be home to ‘Mad Mike’ and a place for him to teach you sideways car control. On the quick trip there we passed the 90 new sheds up for purchase, they are the ideal place to cage your track animal (or in truth; just another way to make your motorsport life simpler – house there rather than transport). Slightly over yonder was the freshly opened off-road course, it’s a place to get your SUV’s and 4-wheel-drives really dirty – at last!

Nudged up close to the original Hampton Downs track is their new members track, it’s a challenging course with a series of tight turns and mixed cambers, plenty of fun by itself but a whole new ball game when ‘added’ to the original track and renamed International. Michael explained that Hamptons can now have 5 independent functions running simultaneously or run as one massive event (such as the 101 in a few months) with plenty of add-ons to keep everyone entertained. It has increased the earning capability of the area considerably and in turn the fun factor has grown exponentially.

With the grand tour over, we headed back to the track and back to the Focus RS’s that would by now be ready and waiting. We were to be given access to the full international track for 30mins, followed by time on the members track and then all topped off with some sideways fun on the skidpan (I’ll give you all the details on this experience in the Ford Focus RS write up).

The new look Hampton Downs is going to be far more than just a racetrack, in my opinion it’s the new adventure park for the North Island. Whether you are a spectator or a control freak you can be certain of a heart racing experience. I could go on and on about the changes and opportunities on offer but track manager Elton Goonan sums it all up in the interview we had while driving on the freshly laid tarmac.

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