You would be hard pressed to call me a Supercars ‘superfan’, let alone an expert on New Zealand motorsport history. However, I know enough to get me into trouble! I know the big names, the tracks and am quite firm on where my loyalties lie. The latter being with Holden and the Kiwi drivers of course!
So when I heard that Pukekohe Park would host the Supercars Championship for one last time in 2022, the one thing I was sure of was my attendance at the event. ‘Puke’ as the track is affectionally called, has been an installment of New Zealand motorsport ever since the tarmac was laid down in 1963.
In the subsequent decades that have passed, Puke has produced New Zealand’s finest drivers. Names like Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Paul Radisich, Greg Murphy, Denny Hulme, Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen were among the many who cut their teeth on this tarmac. And it isn’t just about the star drivers, Puke has provided a home for grassroots motorsport in this country all along, allowing everyone from youngsters to seniors an opportunity to lay down rubber on this iconic surface.
Wandering through the crowd, I overheard plenty of stories of families who had been coming here for decades, entire generations whose identity was tied to the place. It’s hard to describe the sentiment but I heard one local say “Pukekohe Park IS Pukekohe”, a statement which couldn’t be truer. A short stroll around the town and you will see mechanics, body shops, engine builders and the lot! All livelihoods that are tied to the track. Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a melancholic piece but instead a celebration of Puke!
What a celebration it was! The highlight of the day was of course the two Supercars races that were scheduled to take place but in between we had some excellent historic racing events, Formula Ford races and the Toyota GT86 Series. All of which made for some great entertainment.
However, back to the Supercars. The first race started around lunchtime with homegrown racer Shane van Gisbergen (SVG) starting on pole position and rounding out the checkered flag with a victory! An excellent result that had the support of the home crowd. The second race of the day was a tad more dramatic and before I use words to describe it, here’s a highlight from the tail end of the race.
Hopefully you see what I mean! The crowd were on their feet for the last few laps, applauding and cheering on SVG each time he flew past the home straight. At every overtaking opportunity, the crowd would go silent and then breathe once the moment had passed. SVG fought Cam Waters‘ Mustang tooth and nail until the very end. It was a fitting finish for the Supercars Championship at Pukekohe. Van Gisbergen taking the win with his fellow Kiwi Andre Heimgartner finishing in third. Even second placed Waters couldn’t help but acknowledge the atmosphere and sellout crowd.
It was a long day, beginning in the early hours of the morning with the final race wrapping up shortly before sundown but my word, the day gifted us many memorable moments! My first time at Pukekohe Park couldn’t have been more special and it’s loss will no doubt break the hearts of many of the nation’s motoring enthusiasts.
To wrap up, I have a song and a photo I would like to leave you with. The song being James Taylor’s ‘Our Town‘ from Cars, simply because Pukekohe is our town, a New Zealand Mecca for petrolheads. And the image? Well, that’s follows below and it is of the ‘Thanks Pukekohe’ tribute on the back of SVG’s Holden with the man himself taking a moment before getting behind the wheel.
Pukekohe Park, the enthusiast and motorsport communities of New Zealand are forever grateful to you.