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Is Pukekohe Raceway’s future in the virtual world?

New Zealand’s Pukekohe Park Raceway will end all motorsport activities by April next year as circuit owner Auckland Thoroughbred Racing confirmed this morning, but could it exist on a virtual level.

Current Walkinshaw Andretti United co-driver Fabian Coulthard has shared a petition on for the circuit to be scanned for iRacing.

Competitive simulation racing has grown in popularity rapidly since the global pandemic and old circuits such as the long gone Oran Park can be driven on iRacing. Although its not the same as roaring through the Dogleg in real life, the Sydney circuit can still be ‘driven’ on iRacing as it will be as the final round of Cash Converters Supercars Championship.

The current Pukekohe Park Raceway will close due to the redevelopment of the venue and its training facilities, which won’t include the motorsport circuit.

We can appreciate today’s announcement will be big news for many,” said ATR CEO Paul Wilcox.

“Motorsport has undoubtedly had a strong association with Pukekohe Park, becoming synonymous with our racecourse since the first time cars and bikes raced on it in 1962.

“However, our purpose is to facilitate thoroughbred racing at our Auckland venues with our vision being to provide a sustainable future for our sport in New Zealand.

“Part of that remit has seen us undertake a $40 million-plus project to deliver a world-class racing surface at Ellerslie and, during our recent merger process, we also made no secret of the fact that we hope to significantly increase average stakes money to help retain industry participants and attract growth both for our sport locally and for the long-term.

“To better support those activities and help ensure we become a financially viable, internationally recognised racing club that delivers to industry participants, we see a need to increase the training density in the region and have identified our site at Pukekohe Park as being an ideal location for that.

“As a result, we are developing plans to build additional stabling facilities at the racecourse to accommodate an increased horse population. Unfortunately, however, it is not conducive to have both motorsport activities and an increased numbers of horses stabled on site – hence our decision not to renew Pukekohe Motorsport’s lease with us from April 2023.”

Supercars has confirmed its commitment to New Zealand despite losing the venue, which will host its 20th championship round, not including a non-series event in 1996 and the five year stint on the Hamilton streets between 2008-2012.

“Supercars has been informed by Auckland Racing Club that from April 2023, the circuit will no longer be used for Motorsport,” said Supercars CEO Shane Howard.

“It’s obviously a great loss to farewell a circuit with so much history and heritage to both New Zealand and Australian racing.

“Legends were created here, and it was the location of Supercars’ first ever international Championship race, it’s legacy will live on for many years to come.

“While 2022 will mark our final weekend of racing at Pukekohe, we appreciate that through our time racing at the circuit, we have forged great partnerships with Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, long-time naming rights partner of the event ITM and amazing support from our loyal kiwi fans.

“We have other great venue options available and will now begin discussions regarding our 2023 calendar.

“It’s our absolute intent to continue racing in New Zealand and we are now exploring alternative venues for the New Zealand event for the future.”

The New Zealand round has not been held since 2019 due to the global pandemic, but will make a return this year on September 9-11.