Final lap

There’s a race already going down at the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park development that has nothing to do with racing cars. Ross Reid Contractors has been going as fast as weather will permit to move one million cubic metres of earth and turn 160 hectares of farmland into the country’s premier racing venue.   BY ALAN TITCHALL

Hampton_Downs.jpgRoss Reid won the civil works tender for the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, half way between Auckland and Hamilton, because the project needed a contractor who could do the earthworks in a hurry, says Reid business development manager, Prutvi Kumar.

After waiting three years for resource consents, the developer (GP Farms) was keen to get the basic earth, drainage and utility work on the massive site underway and finished by sometime in 2009. Reid started civil work in February 2007, in association with project engineer Dr Peter Goldsmith and Richard McLean from Fraser Thomas.

There’s was a lot of sticky clay material to shift in a short period of time and the first stage was completed during the 2007/2008 contracting season, including the track and its preloading. Work slowed down over one of the wettest winters on record, when the area was a quagmire. However, Reid managed to finish the base for the eight apartment blocks over looking the main circuit and the subdivision with its 11 lifestyle blocks contained in the park.

At the time of Contractor magazine’s visit in October this year, the apartment blocks had been built, the main racing track had almost settled under its 150,000 cubic metres of preload, and fill work had begun on the huge industrial park and camping ground.

“We are on target,” says Kumar. “By June we had finished all the cutting for the apartment building platforms, and the preload has now performed to the geotech engineer’s expectations.”

Hampton_Downs_1.jpgMuch of the park is built over swampland using standard construction methods, namely a cover of SG80 geotextile fabric and fill on top. About 400,000 cubic metres of material went into building the main track and another 150,000 metres went on top as preload to compressed the base material underneath. The preload has been monitored and measured through about 50 settlement plates and steel pins that protrude from the top of the material. Settlement has taken a little longer than expected to do its job, but it is now ready to be removed and will now help fill the industrial park site.

The biggest challenge for Reid, says Kumar, was silt control and management under the project’s strict consents. Since starting last year, there’s been no issue with discharge and that’s the reason Environment Waikato allowed Reid to work through the winter.

“Under our consent, the maximum material that we can discharge into the stream flowing through the site is 100 parts per million. Fraser Thomas takes samples every week from monitoring wells, and we have been well under the consent, even with all the floods and rain we had.”

Credit is also due to Ross Reid project manager Ross Ferraby, who has managed his team successfully through the project, Kumar adds.

Taking a different and simpler approach to silt management than is traditional, Reid has relied on bunds around the entire site to hold and decant the silting water.

“We haven’t used any huge silt ponds or anything like that, which is something the construction industry could learn from.”

With winter behind it, Ross Reid has launched a summer offensive with up to 40 staff to push ahead with the final stages of civil works.  

Clayton Reid, proud father of successful young racing driver Jonny Reid, says while the project is not as intense as others the contractor has tackled, such as the Sylvia Park shopping complex in Auckland, it has its unique challenges.

“We are dealing with very sensitive material that runs right through a wet corridor between Mangatawhiri, Mercer. and Longswamp Getting the compaction levels correct is always a challenge.”

Whatever the challenges, everyone agrees that the original 400-acre site in terms of land area, access and topographical   contour, is ideal for a building one of the best racing circuits in the region. The building of a Corrections Department facility in the area, the existing drag strip and oval circuits at Meremere, and the nearby landfill had already altered the rural flavour of the area and made a motorsport park an ideal neighbour. The location of the park is also very accessible and very close to the Hampton Downs off-ramp on State Highway 1, 40 minutes from either Auckland or Hamilton.

The final motor sport complex will be made up of three sealed circuits, a recreational vehicle course, purpose-built garages, industrial units and trackside apartment blocks with two-car garaging and balconies with panoramic views of the circuit. The pits will have extensive garaging and corporate boxes above them, and a tunnel will allow for unimpeded access at all times between the car park and the infield pit area.

Major international racing events have already been booked at the venue including a round of the Superbike World Championship in 2010.

Clayton Reid and his team will no doubt be watching future sporting events at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park with justifiable pride over its construction; perhaps even watching Jonny Reid, who stormed his way to the top of the A1GP this year, on the track.

“We pretty proud to involved in a circuit of this magnitude, it’s certainly going to be the best track in the country by a long way, and one of the top one in the region,” he says.  


Contractor Vol.32  No.10  November 2008
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