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New Zealand’s gone, but not forgotten bullring

Not only have Australian circuits gone by the wayside due to housing estates, but one of New Zealand’s most memorable venues fell to the same fate.

Opened in 1967, Bay Park was a small bullring situated in Mount Maunganui near Tauranga where some of Australian and New Zealand motorsport’s great drivers contested events for sports sedans all the way up to Formula 5000.

A short circuit at just 1.330 miles it provided great action as the layout and was a perfect spectator track as the action could be viewed from most vantage points. The circuit was known for its abrasive surface as the tight and twisty layout designed by Lin McKenzie built on a sand flood plain lacked safety much like other circuits with wooden planks lining the venue.

Former car salesman Peter Hanna formed a formidable promotor partnership with Graham Pierce resulting in the introduction of big banger tin-tops to New Zealand as well as Formula A (Formula 5000) open-wheel racing.

Allan Moffat raced many times at Bay Park against some of New Zealand’s best including Paul Fahey, Red Dawson, Rod Coppins and of course Jim Richards. The Coca-Cola Ford Mustang Trans Am was one of many Australian-based teams to venture across the Tasman during the summer months as Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan in the Ford ‘Super’ Falcon, multiple British Saloon Car champion Frank Gardner driving a Camaro and the Holden Torana of Bryan Thomson made the trip across.

Positioned in a growing area of in New Zealand, Bay Park was under threat and its viability was shortening as displayed by the houses continuing to encroach on the circuit.

Noise continued to be a problem and this proved too much to overcome as Bay Park closed in 1995 to soon be absorbed by the growing metropolis.

Much like Oran Park, the land where Bay Park once sat is now a housing estate as drivers such as Francevic, Radisich, Hulme, Fahey and Crichton have been honoured by having streets named after them providing a snapshot of what lays under the foundations.

Motorsport still lives on in the area via Bay Park Speedway, which features a rugby field right in the middle.