It’s all very well having a car to take you down to the shops or do the school-run in the morning, but nothing beats the thrill of going full-throttle in the no-holds-barred environment of a race circuit. If you’re a motoring enthusiast in this part of the world, chances are that you’re going to want to test your driving skill and your car’s limits on one of Australasia’s top tracks – and there’s plenty to offer a challenge on both sides of the Tasman. So who’s got the best tracks? Here’s our list of the top-five venues in New Zealand and Australia both for watching great motorsport action and for getting out there yourself. And if you need a hand getting your vehicle across The Ditch, you can always contact us for information about how to ship a car in and out of the nearest port – we use Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle in Australia so there ought to be somewhere close by.
Mt Panorama: It’s difficult to go past Bathurst in terms of standout circuits globally, let alone in our part of the world. As well as being home to an annual 12-hour race each February and the annual Bathurst 1000 in October, the four-mile track also hosts regular meetings via the Bathurst Light Car Club which means you might get the chance to pit your skills against other like-minded enthusiasts. Of course, because Mt Panorama is a public road, you’re free to take a closeup look at iconic sections of track such as The Dipper, Skyline and Forrest’s Elbow – just be mindful that the 60kph speed limit is strictly enforced and the police are often out and about.
Hidden Valley Raceway, Darwin: It’s a bit of a trek to get up top, but the drive through Aussie’s Red Centre can be an exhilarating drive in itself. Then, once you’re there, Hidden Valley provides a short (2.87km), sharp adrenaline burst of racetrack. Anyone who’s watched the V8 Supercars hurtle around this high-speed circuit knows the thrills and spills which threaten at every corner.
Symmons Plain Raceway, Tasmania: Tassie offers great driving territory with picturesque mountains, stunning ocean roads – and this little gem of a 2.4km track just south of Launceston. Its biggest test is the incredibly tight Brambles hairpin which sits snugly in between two long straights – but you’ll be travelling in the tyre-tracks of the famous if you get on to the circuit: Peter Brock still holds the record for most race wins at Symmons Plain.
Phillip Island Circuit: The home of the first Australian Grand Prix in 1928 is now a great venue for Superbikes and V8s just south-east of Melbourne. The venue hosts plenty of drive and ride days as well as public events and family-friendly days – just watch out for the odd stray kangaroo.
Lakeside Park: Just north of Brisbane, this circuit was built by volunteers using borrowed machinery in the 1960s, hosted grand prix and touring cars and was reopened in 2008 after a long campaign by enthusiasts. Because Queensland Raceway gets all the big events, this great track alongside the shores of Lake Kurwongbah is more often than not open for corporate events or general testing.
Manfeild, Feilding: The home of the New Zealand Grand Prix is a testing 4.5k circuit (usually reduced to 3km for racing) which hosts test days which can occasionally include road cars. The banked corners are unique in New Zealand and make for an incredibly fast lap pace.
Pukekohe Park Raceway: Just south of Auckland, this track is a favourite for corporate hot-laps and hosts the V8 Supercars and NZ Supertourers. The track also hosts frequent Public Controlled Testing days when you can turn up (without even booking!) and test your driving or riding skills around the 2.8km track – including the new chicane on the back straight.
Hampton Downs: Greg Murphy says this whole facility is “without doubt the best in Australasia” and the circuit hosts frequent track days throughout the year giving you the chance to pit your skills against the 2.7km track in a non-racing environment – but with no speed limits. The track is set in 450ha of north Waikato countryside and was opened only in 2009 – meaning this is still a fresh and exciting new racing facility.
Taupo Motorsport Park: A $13million upgrade in 2006 led to Taupo hosting rounds of the A1 Grand Prix over the next three seasons. The circuit can be used in four configurations raning from 3.5k long to 1.3km and it hosts test days on the first and third Wednesday of the month.
Boomrock, Johnsonville: This private car testing circuit is only around 1km long but with incredible views over Cook Strait towards the Marlborough Sounds, a 380mm top straight which seems to plunge over the cliff, a tight chicane on to a wet/dry skidpan and a positive camber constant radius corner designed by Peter Brock, it deserves its spot in this list. The track is set in 100 acres of farmland and shares the space with a seriously upmarket venue so it doesn’t come cheap – but if you want a unique Kiwi racetrack experience, The Track at Boomrock is a serious contender.
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