NZGP stays at Manfeild
“A great motorsport victory – not simply for our circuit but for the entire lower North Island, a tribute to the incredible and unsurpassed regional backing given our bid.”
This reaction is from Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane on learning the Feilding venue has succeeded in maintaining host responsibility for the New Zealand Grand Prix, the country’s most prestigious international motor-race, thus continuing an association that has been continuous since 2007.
The announcement of continued preference for Circuit Chris Amon for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 events is from the sport’s governing body, MotorSport New Zealand, on the recommendation of promoter Speed Works Events and Palmerston North-domiciled category provider Toyota New Zealand.
Mrs Keane says the venue’s success came from enforcing it is the home racetrack to the six cities in the lower North Island, a point also made by local political leaders who enthusiastically backed the bid and accepted by MSNZ, which said the support of seven city and district councils in the Horizons region played a key role in the decision.
Said Mrs Keane: “Our lower North Island site places us perfectly in in the middle of the middle million – that is, within easy reach of a seven-figure population count from all around this area, but predominantly Wellington.”
Palmerston North’s mayor, Grant Smith, reinforced this view.
“People within Wellington, Palmerston North, Whanganui, New Plymouth, Hastings and Napier have backed this bid.
“It is especially heartening for Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils who have worked hard and so closely to secure this prestigious race for its natural home at Manfeild.”
Manawatu District mayor Helen Worboys says she is excited for Feilding and Manfeild.
“This decision is testament to the hard work done by the Manfeild team and our region’s communities to support the event, as much as it is about the quality of racing that can be achieved on Circuit Chris Amon for drivers and spectators alike.
“This decision marks the beginning of work to build on the success of this year’s race and to continue grow the event for the region, a challenge we readily accept.”
Mrs Keane said while historic and economic arguments came into play, the regional support underpinned the Manfeild bid.
“The support of the seven councils in the Horizons region is significant, as is the work our councils have done in finding additional support from funding agencies.
“Manfeild has also proven itself as a venue with high quality facilities to match the expectations associated with the event.
“We excel at reaching high and thinking beyond usual boundaries to achieve extraordinary results and that ability will be essential as we work under a new promotional plan that, I believe, will raise the race’s status all the higher.”
Presenting argument for maintaining the NZGP was not new to Manfeild as “there have been several occasions since rights’ were awarded in 2007 that we have had to state our case to maintain a race that has established through a relationship with Toyota Racing Series and TNZ.
“Even so, this year we pitched an especially strong regionally-focussed proposal. I was humbled all seven local government organisations within the Horizons Regional Council catchment, spanning an area from Taranaki to Hawke’s Bay and to Wellington, responded with amazing enthusiasm – a result I believe is unsurpassed in the history of our venue.
“We were also able to present a secure funding model whose finer points cannot be discussed at this time.”
The announcement reinforces the merit of the circuit’s association with the late Chris Amon. A world-famous motorsport icon who had such close relationship with Toyota, TRS and – as a two-time winner – with the race proper, Amon was not only born and raised close to Manfeild but also helping design the track.
“Keeping the NZGP here is a great tribute to the sentiment about Chris that was clearly expressed at this year’s event. Honouring that heritage is why, of course, the main track became Circuit Chris Amon, a name change that we know means a lot to so many, here and overseas.”
GP weekend in February delivers a significant financial windfall to the local area, with the recognised potential to pump significant direct spend into the region, Mrs Keane said.
“Regardless of how you feel about motor racing, it remains one of this country’s larger sporting events, attracting significant overseas’ investment, media exposure and international participation.”
The value to our region is immense, she reinforced. In 2012 alone, Manfeild generated a regional economic return approaching $53 million.
“Hundreds of motorsport teams staying for up to four nights generates financial benefit from spend on accommodation, restaurants and retail in Palmerston North and Feilding alone.
“We testified we were worth backing – and clearly the sport agrees.”
To reinforce that argument, attendees of this year’s race were encouraged to present feedback through an on-line survey conducted in association with the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), as part of their greater research into regional business benefit.
Also, this year, the Manfeild team tapped into innovation, developed an app for smartphone, mobile and tablet users to download and use at the track.
“While the app can be used for all events at Manfeild, this was originally designed and built for the Grand Prix and it proved to be a success, with great uptake and usage.”
Another huge focus was marketing.
“Our round has long enjoyed greater media exposure than any other TRS event, but in fostering existing and growing new relationships with media and advertisers we further enhanced that status.
“An intensified and innovative social media push also significantly ramped engagement and created enough awareness that the gate in 2017 almost doubled that of 2016.”
Mrs Keane said she had never lost hope the race would remain at Manfeild, though that did not mean she underestimated the quality and intent of rival pitches.
When she, Mayors Worboys and Smith and former MDC mayor, now MP for Rangitikei Ian McKelvie presented to Speed Works Events’ general manager Geoff Short on March 16 “I think we all felt empowered by the positive sentiment received about Manfeild and our efforts, not least with this year’s race.
“However, it’s fair to say we also recognised those others seeking to secure rights did so with equal passion and respect for the NZGP and we did not take their efforts lightly.”