Like a lot of competitors in his events, Targa New Zealand owner and event director Peter Martin has been a regular at the Uncles Club track days at Hampton Downs. So when he was offered the opportunity to take over running them Martin didn’t have to think twice.
“I had already done the research, the due diligence, if you like. All we had to do after that was work through the details.”
The brainchild of motor vehicle industry identities Peter Johnston, Russell Burling and Alan Kemp the Uncles Club was set up to run track days for enthusiast owners to experience the performance of their cars in a safe, controlled environment.
The key difference to other – broadly similar – events run by marque or other car clubs on a weekend is that the ‘Uncles’ took advantage of daylight saving with Johnston’s son Hayden and workmate Blair Bartels running their track days on Tuesdays between 4.30 and 7.00pm through the spring, summer and and autumn months, and charging just $65.
“That’s the real beauty of it,” says Martin. “Because it’s effectively down time for the circuit the cost is a lot less than for a full day, and that saving was passed directly on to those who turned up.”
From small, largely word-of-mouth, beginnings, Uncles Club track days grew to the point where at the height of the summer ‘season’ they were attracting as many as 200 keen car owners – one of the reasons Targa NZ is now involved.
“Running motorsport events is what we do,” says Martin. ” When you’re talking just a few mates you can do it yourself. But as the numbers grow so do the logistics, which is where the systems and staff expertise we have developed for our Targa events come in.”
For their $65 Uncles Club members get multiple five-lap sessions per evening. And – literally – everyone is welcome.
“Really, ” says Martin, “all you need is a car and a crash helmet. “While we do run sessions for race-ready cars the main thrust is to get people out in their road cars to have a bit of fun. Obviously we recommend that you check and if necessary upgrade your tyres, brakes and brake fluid, but the accent is on fun not competition. That’s why we keep the sessions short (five laps). So that you can take your everyday road car out and not overstress it.”
Martin says regulars will notice very little different when they arrive for the first event run by Targa NZ, most of changes having already been made behind the scenes.
“The one thing we don’t want to change is the fantastic atmosphere. You can turn up straight from work, sign on, do your five laps then come in and check out who else is there. As long as your car is up to registration and warrant of fitness standard you are welcome to join us. There’s no pressure to perform and you’ll always find someone else to talk to and compare notes with.”
The first Uncles Club track day run by Targa NZ will be held on Tuesday September 8 with subsequent ones will be held on the first Tuesday of each month. To find out more about the Uncles Club and the track days it runs at Hampton Downs go to the club facebook page at www.facebook.com/HamptonDownsUnclesClub.