Postcard from Auckland Car Club Racing at Hampton Downs

You can’t volunteer an event in Australia without coming over and marshaling in New Zealand. So since I was in the neighborhood I decided to pop up for one of the Kiwi racedays at Hampton Downs.

I have been planning to come back to New Zealand for ages, and I’m really glad this opportunity presented itself. Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ invited me to spend the weekend with her family and I couldn’t be in better hands on my visit. It was a bit sad to see fewer marshals at the track than the last time I was there. Even the race day itself was shorter than usual, instead of the full weekend of racing Auckland Car Club crammed all of their practices and races into one Saturday. But the action was still there and thanks to an awesome post assignment I was having a hell of a good time.

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I was paired to work with Peter for the weekend who was really great and welcoming to a “newbie” which made my day. We were pretty lucky to have a few incidents including minor spins, cars coming to a stop suffering mechanical failures as well as a side to side metal to metal impact resulting in a spin which I had to write a report on. All in all we were kept busy the whole day.

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I asked Tom and Anna to make a pit stop on the way to the track so I can get some of my favorite track food to go: the Kiwi Meat Pies, which were especially delicious once I worked up some appetite working trackside.

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Once lunch came around, Peter and I were picked up by the Porsche Cheyenne Course Car and brought into the paddock area where I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the race cars and all the improvements done to the track since my last visit. The garages have really been build up, adding a second level. Race control was completed. And one of the most visible additions was the actual expansion of the track adding quite a few more corners for Anna to staff once the track is fully finished.

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I was really happy to see a few MX-5’s racing with the other Japanese cars in their class. Mazda’s are very popular in New Zealand although in the past it was the RX-7’s and RX-8’s that dominated the car scene. Still nice to see Miatas race everywhere I go to marshal.

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Happy to also be served L&P – my favorite Kiwi drink at the end of day party for the marshals.

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After lunch it was back to the office at Post 2. My favorite tool to use was the Hampton Downs lighting system. A very simple controller tethered to the Light Panel via a cable. The functionality is simple and intuitive. You push and hold the switch into the direction of the flag you wish to display and it stays on while you’re holding the switch. Upon release the light turns off. Yellow flag up, Double yellow down. Blue flag up and White flag down. Using Yellow forces a Green at the next post automatically. Debris flag can be switched on and left to display, though the way it shows on the pane is by alternating flashing lights of Yellow and Red which some drivers apparently found rather confusing. For a few incidents where the track was more than 50% blocked I found it a bit clumsy to try to wave a both yellow flags and hold the double yellow button simultaneously. But I would imagine as simple as this system is it would cost a fraction of what the F1 light system cost, and I have a feeling this one is far more efficient.

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One of the coolest things I saw on this visit was during a recovery. The tow truck driver that had already freed one car from the gravel trap, pulled up to the second disabled car by our post and hooked it to the bumper of the first car. He then proceeded to drive the train of stricken cars back to the paddock. I thought that was rather efficient making due with what they have and not wasting time waiting for another tow truck to free up to do the recovery.

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As the day was getting hotter and marshals were getting tired, the Motorsport Club did an ice cream run to cool us off. And it really worked wonders. Tip Top the kiwi ice cream brand is actually quite creamy and milky, much better than the water based ice creams we typically get in the US.

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And so another wonderful weekend spend at a race track was in the books. I was super happy to have had this opportunity to marshal even if just for one day. It totally made my visit to NZ worthwhile!

My next trip to New Zealand will hopefully involve a visit to a new circuit down on the South Island – Highlands Motorsport Park.