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The Wellington 500 was a 500 km (310 mi) street race for touring cars which took place at Wellington City in Wellington, New Zealand. The race was first proposed in 1984 and first took place a year later, albeit with a different layout from that to the original proposal. The final running of the race was in 1996, a non-championship event for the Australian Touring Car Championship.
Initially dubbed the Nissan Cue 500, the first event in 1985's title was changed at the last minute to the Nissan Sport 500 due to Cue Magazine's demise in the week preceding the event. The following year Mobil became a naming sponsor and the Nissan Mobil 500 name was born.
For the first race in 1985, the FIA delegate who inspected the Wellington Street Circuit was 1960 Armstrong 500 winner John Roxburgh from Australia. He voiced serious concerns about the narrowness of the circuit as well as safety and the circuit did not pass inspection. For the race to be able to go ahead the promoters had to re-write the regulations turning the event from an international race to a national race, thus eliminating the need for FIA approval.
WTCC round (1987)
In 1987, the Nissan Mobil 500 Wellington Street Race was a round of the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Championship. The WTCC lasted only one year and was a victim of its own Group A rules. Both the factory backed BMW Motorsport (Schnitzer) and Ford (Eggenberger) teams were disqualified from some races for technical infringements. Also, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had been given power over the WTCC at the last minute over the original organisers, the NZ based Strathmore Group. Ecclestone imposed a US$60,000 registration fee per car which saw only a small number of cars eligible for championship points. With some races decided by stewards hearings, the WTCC generally descended into a farce by the end of 1987 and the series was not run again in 1988.
Continued international exposure (1988-94)
The race maintained a point of interest for international teams and drivers in the years following the WTCC event. The event lived through several different types of touring car classes, from Group A to Super Touring and then Group 3A, a class adopted by the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), now known as V8 Supercars, from 1993 onwards.
Demise and final sprint round (1995-96)
After no event was held in 1995, the circuit was used for a final time in 1996, as a non-championship ATCC event. Twelve cars competed in the event, as part of a two-event series in New Zealand which also included races at Pukekohe Park Raceway. The format consisted of three short sprint races, and the overall winner was John Bowe for Dick Johnson Racing.
Despite its popularity, the race never returned after 1996. The Wellington City Council cancelled the event in part because the construction of the Te Papa national museum and the Queen's Wharf Events Centre clashed with the layout of the race track route. In addition the main sponsors requested a higher level of rate payer subsidy from the City Council.
Failed revival plans
In 2004, there were plans to revive the race as a V8 Supercars event, to feed on its high popularity in New Zealand, with many popular New Zealand drivers competing in that series in Australia. As the roads where the circuit used to be have now been demolished to make way for a museum and other buildings, it would have had to be run on a new course. There was a new proposal in 2006 with a new layout. Both of the 2006 Proposals were revoked through the Resource Management Act.
During 1985-1996 the track changed layout many times. The circuit initially ran along Cable Street to the Taranaki Street Gates, and this was extended to the Hurd Street Loop for the 1987 WTCC event. The extensions for 1987 also included Horseshoe Hairpin being lengthened. By 1991 the back straight (Jervois Quay) was modified to make a safer turn onto Cable Street. For 1993 the layout was forced to change due to the construction of the Queens Wharf Events Centre and Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand), which meant the loss of the "traditional" layout.
|1985|| Michel Delcourt
|1986|| Peter Brock
|Holden VK Commodore SS Group A|
|1987 Feb.|| Peter Brock
|Holden VK Commodore Group SS A|
|1987 Nov.|| Klaus Ludwig
|Ford Sierra RS500|
|1988|| Emanuele Pirro
|1989|| Emanuele Pirro
|1990|| Emanuele Pirro
|1991|| Emanuele Pirro
|BMW M3 Evolution|
|1992|| Tony Longhurst
|BMW M3 Evolution|
|1993|| Owen Evans
|Porsche 911 RS Cup|
|1994 (race 1)||Joachim Winkelhock||BMW 318i|
|1994 (race 2)||Tim Harvey||BMW 318i|
|1996||John Bowe||Ford EF Falcon|
- Guido de Carli's track guide
- Wellington V8 Westpac Stadium Track
- Wellington street race proposal
- E-Tracks Online Circuit Map