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Australia

McLaughlin reacts to Pukekohe demise

Scott McLaughlin says the impending closure of the famous Pukekohe Park circuit in his native New Zealand is sad but inevitable.

Race winner Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske Ford

It was confirmed last week that motor racing activities at the Pukekohe venue will cease as of next April, as owner Auckland Thoroughbred Racing looks to expand the horse training facilities.

That will end an era of motorsport on the outskirts of Auckland that stretches back to the early 1960s.

It will also leave Supercars looking for a new home in NZ from 2023 onwards, Pukekohe having played host for all but five events since the Aussie series first crossed the ditch for a points-paying round in 2001.

Hampton Downs in the neighbouring state of Waikato is widely tipped to inherit the NZ Supercars round. 

Pukekohe holds special memories for Supercars champion turned IndyCar star Scott McLaughlin, who watched hero Greg Murphy dominate at the venue as a kid.

McLaughlin went on to take his first ever Supercars win at Pukekohe in 2013 before adding more wins in 2018 and 2019 during his tense battle with fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen.

When asked about the impending closure during last weekend's IndyCar double-header in Iowa, McLaughlin said it was sad but inevitable.

"That's where I got my first win in Supercars," said McLaughlin. "I won there in front of my home fans, which is amazing. I had some tremendous sort of championship battles throughout the years.

"To be honest, I watched the Supercars for the very first time there. That's where the fire for me burned. I wanted to be a race driver from the first point I saw Supercars on the hill.

"[It's] sad, some of these tracks that are built in residential areas, it's inevitable it's going to happen. But especially in New Zealand and Australia.

"Unfortunately that's the way it goes. We got tremendous memories there that we should all be proud of and enjoy for years to come."

Issues with urban sprawl and development are threatening a number of Antipodean circuits at the moment.

As well as the impending closure of Pukekohe, the fate of Sandown Motor Raceway in suburban Melbourne looks grim due to residential development plans.

Wakefield Park in rural New South Wales, meanwhile, has recently had its operating days cut to just four a month due to new noise restrictions, which threatens its viability.

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