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Another of New Zealand’s lost circuits

Just like in Australia, New Zealand has its own fair share of lost circuits of which Pukekohe is the latest, but another constructed inside a race track is still revered in the form of Levin.

The construction of Levin was a momentous occasion as it marked New Zealand’s first permanent race track and although it was small the facility led to a revolution of new motorsport circuits being built.

Levin was situated in Lake Horowhenua, 95kms north of Wellington on the North Island and opened in 1956 around a horse racing track, which led to its demise during the mid-1970s.

Ex-pat Englishman Ron Frost MBE arrived in New Zealand during the early-1950s with crucially the experience of establishing one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious circuits, Brand Hatch and raced there before moving down under.

Inspired by Brands hatch, Frost was searching for property near Levin when he came across the then little used horse racing facility and decided to develop it as a motor racing circuit in a similar form to his favourite UK track.

By forming the Levin Motor Racing Circuit Ltd, discussions begun led by Frost and an army of local enthusiasts ensured landowners together with local authorities agreed to the construction of the circuit.

Constructed started in 1955 of a circuit heavily designed to match Brands Hatch and was completed in January of the next year welcoming as many as 20,000 spectators in the stands already existing for the horse racing.

The surface broke up during the first meeting and a bank loan was taken out to effect repairs as Levin held three meetings for much of its life during the summer as it welcomed international drivers including Jack Brabham, Roy Salvadori mixing it with the likes of Bruce McLaren.

Lengthened in 1960 from 1.4km to 1.7km by creating the creation of the Lake Corner and Hokio Bend, which forced the pits to be moved towards Beach Bend as widening also occurred to 9.1m as Levin played a part in the legendary era of the Tasman Series.

A fatality occurred in April, 1961 when Duncan McKenzie rolled at Hokio Bend.

Denny Hulme won the first Tasman Cup race in 1964 as two years later the track was further expanded to lengthen pit straight as Clearways was removed to create Wills Corner and Castrol Curve, but this was the last such upgrade.

The new layout debuted to a crowd of 23,000 spectators to kick off the Tasman Series as later events included a four hour production car race and the rise of motorcycle racing came to the fore.

Levin’s days of hosting motor racing events came to a close on December 7, 1975 due to the club not having the required funds to make upgrades and the expiration of the 20-year lease.

In difference, horse racing was enjoying a boom period and the circuit was absorbed by an expanded horse racing facility.

In contrast to when Levin opened, New Zealand had welcomed many permanent circuits such as Mansfield to fill the void.