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Huge crowds for Supercars

More than 67,000 fans pack race days in Taupo as track owner takes pop at naysayers.
Posted on 23 April, 2024
Huge crowds for Supercars

Will Brown overhauled Broc Feeney in a tense battle to win the ITM Taupo Super400 finale, with Anton de Pasquale clinching the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy.

Brown cleared Feeney with nine laps left to claim the lead following a nail-biting battle that saw the two Red Bull Ampol Camaros run side-by-side on multiple occasions.

Behind them, De Pasquale, pictured, finished third to claim the memorial trophy and emulate former Shell V-Power Racing Team’s Scott McLaughlin, who won it in 2018. That was despite a spirited charge from Andre Heimgartner, who missed out on it by one position.

The official three-day attendance in Taupo was 67,411 for the championship’s new stop in New Zealand, replacing the now-closed Pukekohe after the competition had a year away from this country.

Supercars says there was a sell-out of most race-day ticket options on Saturday and Sunday, even after a new grandstand was added in February.

Heading to the Perth Supersprint on May 17-19, Brown leads Feeney in the championship by an extended 71 points.

Taking out big prize

De Pasquale in his Ford Mustang GT claimed one of the biggest prizes in Supercars racing with the best overall performance at the revitalised New Zealand leg of the championship.

He converted two strong third places into victory in the Jason Richards Trophy, which is named after the talented Kiwi racer who died at 35 from cancer.

It was created to celebrate the best performance over the whole weekend at Taupo, not just an individual race, and has become a key feature of Kiwi motorsport.

“A special trophy,” says De Pasquale. I know how much it means. I’m super-honoured to have my name on it.” 

De Pasquale followed Will Davison, his team-mate at Dick Johnson Racing, onto the podium on Saturday and was best of the Ford drivers on Sunday.

The improving pace of the updated Mustang GT was also reflected in a pair of pole positions. Cam Waters was best in the top 10 shootout on Saturday for Tickford Racing and youngster Matt Payne repeated the result for Grove Racing on Sunday.

Middle-finger salute

The owner of Taupo International Motorsport Park has had a pop at those who said a Supercars event could never happen in the town.

During a live on-air press conference, Tony Quinn spoke of the overwhelming success of the weekend’s races, describing April 20-21’s event as “fantastic”.

He then flashed his middle finger at “all those people that said, when it was announced, that it could never happen in Taupo”.

The first day’s constant rain didn’t deter most ticket holders from turning up, huddling under ponchos and umbrellas to watch Andre Heimgartner win the first race of the Super400.

Quinn said there could be some additional events in Taupo soon, “probably” a transtasman motorbike race, and there are plans to develop the Historic Grand Prix, which used to take place there every two years.