Kiwi-born Park Operations Manager Mike Sentch had been working in Australia for 11-years when he was given the almost contradictory brief to build a race track that would make money. When he delivered, it was to the great surprise of the local authority who had struggled to keep up with the required consents.
The brand new 4.5 km international-standard circuit near Cromwell, approximately 50km from tourism Mecca Queenstown, on New Zealand’s spectacular South Island was built as an exclusive members-only facility, a concept successfully utilised in the Northern hemisphere, but totally new south of the equator.
As a 7 day a week tourism business, Focus had to adapt to booking systems and the integration of other tourism applications to the already large network of timing, safety lighting and camera systems.
The project was six months old before Focus got a call to do what never had been done before.
“I inquired about the IT of everybody; the Focus name kept coming up,” Mike said. He did make more than one call, but when Gen-i saw the project they quickly backed away. “Which was very disappointing when I figured the size of Telecom.”
“The problem with us is it’s a bespoke system, there is nothing off the shelf we could use,” Mike said. “We needed our IT suppliers to build the whole network, every server, and they just stepped up and up and took everyone in their stride which gave us the confidence to carry on.”
When Focus Queenstown Account Manager Karen Iremonger visited the site in December 2012, the office was an old house and the only track in sight was a dirt road.
Highlands needed an IT system to cope with all the usual requirements of a small business of ten staff – email, accounting, communications - as well as the extremely specialist demands of international speed racing – which had to be reliably delivered to rural New Zealand. Because of the diversity of this project, we had to do a reasonable amount of research.
“I phoned all the Motorsport Parks in NZ, I talked to Golf Courses and I phoned a couple of the larger grass track horse race courses as well as a couple of the larger sports stadiums to find out what they did.”
In the end by working closely with Mike, whose strong background in motorsport was a huge advantage, together they began piecing together a bespoke IT Solution.
The first issue was connection. While low rainfall and high density tourism made Cromwell the ideal location for the venture Rural Otago was not exactly on the fibre-optic map. “Because they were so rural and so new Telecom would not run any cable out there. We could not get any internet out there so we had to come up with a No8 wire solution.”
Instead of digging a hole, Focus chose to “bounce” the signal in.
A line-of-site aerial from Cromwell township to the Highlands Motorsport Park provides the bridge to bounce in the signal, which connects the park to Focus Cloud Services (hosted email).
While the office and email systems delivered on PC and server based network were easy; the specialist track, lighting and lap timing systems utilised German componentry which had never been used in New Zealand before. “We made a lot of calls at night – and I’m guessing the Germans received a lot of calls at night too.”
Despite the lack of local competition for the project, the price was competitive too, with the Australian based accountant signing off every invoice without query, Mike said.
The ambitious project was delivered on time. Highlands Motorsport Park opened complete with museum, three separate race tracks (1.3; 1.5 and 1.7km) and a restaurant on March 30, 2013 for a long-weekend of high profile events. Focus rostered a full complement of staff on-call that Easter. Not one call-out was received.
Within 20 months of its opening, Highland Motorsport Park had grown to a staff of 37 (half with PC connections) – and ever increasing technology demands. The support Focus provide is proactive – so cutting edge technology stays cutting edge.
Now the pit area has WIFI; but it’s not just the big things that Focus excel in. When the marketing manager’s laptop slowed down (it had simply run out of capacity) within three days she was working on a new machine.
“We don’t have to chase them, Karen contacts us every six months to sit down and see what has changed. It is very, very cool,” Mike said. Because at Highlands Motorsport Park things change a lot, very, very quickly. With 23 products (and counting) Highlands Motorsport Park is a business on full throttle.
For the public it offers a dizzying list of active motor sport experiences, from Your Laps, Fast Laps, Dirt Buggies, Go-Karts, V8 Supercar, Lamborghini Fast Dash, Porsche Cayenne Turbo; along with more cerebral experiences like the New Zealand Motorsport Museum, Sculpture Park, Restaurant and wine tours. For Highlands Motorsport Park private members (who range from enthusiasts to internationally ranked racers) it delivers exclusive use of a motorsport track that can be configured 27 different ways – now with the option of luxury pit-lane apartments on site.
True petrol-head heaven.
Highlands Motorsport Park