After years of uncertainty with lockdowns and the Pukekohe shutdown, lingering question marks over the future of Supercars in New Zealand were answered with a plan that could see the Kiwi stage of the iconic racing series be one of the most talked about events of the circuit.
The Repco Supercars Championship events are locked in for the next three years, with Taupō International Motorsport Park confirmed as the venue for Supercar racing for the foreseeable future.
Sara Johnson, CEO of ITM, said: "This is an international class track with fantastic facilities located in one of New Zealand's most beautiful, natural settings, and so I think it will be an outstanding spectacle with huge trans-Tasman interest.
"As a longstanding supporter of Supercars since 2010, ITM is passionate about motorsport in NZ, and we cannot wait to see the racing kick off again in Taupō as part of the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship.
Supercars CEO Shane Howard said: “The response we received to the announcement that we are headed to Taupō was incredible, there’s a lot of excitement already ahead of our debut there in 2024. “We know how passionate our fans are in New Zealand which is why it was a key priority for us to return as soon as possible, and now we are just a matter of months out from being on track in NZ once again.
“We can’t wait, Taupō is world-class and will help us write a new chapter into the history of Supercars in New Zealand which is why we are looking forward to collaborating closely with all stakeholders, series partners and fans, to ensure the Taupō debut is one to remember.”
The 2024 ITM Taupō SuperSprint has been locked in for April 19-21.
The Taupō International Motorsport Park is New Zealand's only Federation Internationale deI'Automobile (FIA) Grade 2-rated circuit - one of just 76 in the world capable of hosting Grade 2 motorsport events.
Surrounded by countryside with Mount Tauhara acting as a spectacular backdrop, the venue has extensive facilities, including a fully developed motorsport industry business park.
There are four alternative track configurations, with Supercars to race on the 3.32km International Circuit – a highly technical and tight circuit requiring patience in low-speed corners and urgent commitment through the fast sections and the 830m back straight.
Full steam ahead
While the facilities have been upgraded many times since it was first established as a dirt track in 1959 by the Taupō Car Club, the most significant transformation came in 2005, with the venue brought up to international standards under the guidance of Formula One Kiwi driver Chris Amon.
More recently, ownership of the venue changed when long-serving motorsport benefactor Tony Quinn bought the Taupō facility in 2021.
"Since purchasing the park, we've been full steam ahead bringing it up to TQ* standard, and it's special for our organisation to be part of the team making Supercars a reality back in NZ."
Quinn reckons it's fitting that Supercars are returning to the country, given that Kiwi drivers have taken out the last five Supercars championships: Scott McLaughlin in 2018, 2019, 2020 and van Gisbergen in 2021 and 2022. While van Gisbergen is tipped to drop out of Supercars at the end of the season to pursue NASCAR racing, there will still be four Kiwis in the line-up at Taupō.
Walkinshaw Andretti United has just signed Wellington-born Ryan Wood in its second Ford Mustang for 2024 and beyond. At 19, Wood is Supercar's youngest driver and will join fellow Kiwis Andre Heimgartner, Richie Stanaway and Matthew Payne on the Taupō start line.
*Total Quality (TQ) is an internationally recognised management programme that consists of continuous improvement activities involving everyone in an organisation in a fully integrated effort to improve performance at every level.