It’s been a busy summer for Baypark up-and-comer Ayrton Hodson, who has been busy at work in the Sprintcar and competing on the tarmac around the country.

The 18-year-old from Katikati has been racing in the renowned Toyota 86 Championship, as well as having a recent outing in the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series 1-Hour race at Hampton Downs.

Along the way, he’s shown maturity beyond his years, showing dirt track racers have what it takes to stick it on the tarmac.

Starting at Baypark at just 12 years old, Hodson quickly got up to speed in Ministock and progressed to Six Shooters before eventually settling in for a full Sprintcar campaign this season gone.

His early achievements included success in the ‘ Future of Speedway’, first in the third tier of Ministocks in Paradise, second in the Waikato Champs and second in the 0800 Muscle Six Shooter Series, among others.

Hodson wears a similar livery in the Toyota 86 Championship. Image Bruce Jenkins

However, his transition to the big leagues early this season didn’t necessarily immediately go to plan, but in true Baypark fashion, he bounced back to achieve some strong results.


“I didn’t start well; we had a tip over on opening night, five laps into our first heat,” he told NZ Dirt Track Racing Magazine.

“That didn’t start well, but we’ve kind of made really good gains after each meeting. In our third meeting, we had a top five, which was really cool.”

It’s been a season of ups and downs at Baypark for the youngster, who admits that it’s been a massive step up.

“A lot of the time we’ve just had bad luck. We’ve had fuelling issues for about half the meetings we’ve been let down on fuel issues. It’s definitely been up and down; there’s been a few highs, but I think the lows outnumber the highs [this season], unfortunately, but otherwise, we’ve been taking really good steps forward.”

It’s always easy to let the lows outweigh the highs, but the signs are definitely promising for the youngster, who, in only his third Sprintcar outing at Baypark, stunned the field to take fifth in November’s Bay Circuit of Dreams Feature.

The next time he competed at the venue, in the massive ‘Bay International Superstars’ event, Hodson was also on point, with particular regard to Heat 2, where he finished third, upstaging the likes of Jonathan Allard and Shane van Gisbergen.

While he wasn’t able to finish in the Feature, it did showcase what he was capable of in front of a massive crowd and a host of renowned international drivers.

But the dirt oval exposure wasn’t enough for Hodson, however, as he then committed to a Toyota 86 campaign.

Hodson, along with Brett Sullivan, topped their class in the recent 1-Hour Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series race at Hampton Downs. Image Neville Bailey

“It’s certainly something new, but I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and it appeals because of how competitive it is,” he said when the announcement was made.

“We’re under no illusions as to how tough this will be with most of the competitors having run Karts or other forms of circuit racing already.

“Of course the Toyota 86 is a complete contrast to the oval cars I have driven and particularly the Sprintcars. Those cars have absolutely loads of power (800bhp+) and limited grip but the Toyota has limited power and absolutely heaps of grip. That’s a new process for me and I’m really enjoying learning it.

“The Sprint Car is almost instinctive in terms of lines, but there’s definitely a fast way and a slow way around the circuit in the 86. The engineering side is also very different because, of course, we cannot really get any track data out of the sprint car, and an in-car camera is as far as you can go when it comes to collecting any information.

“Everyone has been really helpful getting me up to speed on that side of things, and it’s exciting knowing exactly where you can be quicker in the 86 and whether you have the right braking points, throttle level and things like that. It’s really interesting for me.”

The differences between Sprintcar and Toyota 86 racing need little explaining, ranging from a hugely different car to a completely different style of racing.


For Hodson, that was expected, but one element, in particular, caught him by surprise. “I think how close the tarmac racing is,” he said when asked what the most eye-opening moment was of the transition.

“With all the cars being completely identical, the racing is super close, which I didn’t think it would be like.

“The door-to-door stuff has been a real challenge for me.”

“In Sprintcars, we really aren’t door-to-door a lot of the time, but I think the more racing kind of part has been the real challenge for me switching over.”

His tarmac racing debut at Highlands Motorsport Park did go to plan, where the ultimate aim was to walk away from the round a better driver.

The talented 18-year-old shows signs of becoming a star of the future. Image James Selwyn

“Highlands went well; we were near the back-ish most the weekend,” he says, “but we had some good battles and made some good passes and had a straight car at the end, which is always good.

“It was definitely a really cool experience. We didn’t start off well with quite limited testing; I think we had three to five test days in the 86 in total before our first race weekend.”

From then, his progression has been easy to see, most evident in the practice sessions ahead of each round, where he’s gone from averaging the 15th-fastest time at Highlands to averaging fourth, most recently at Manfeild.

Hodson’s big breakthrough, however, came at Taupo, where he qualified on the front row before driving to an incredible podium in the opening race.

“Yea, that was awesome,” he stated, evidently grinning through the phone. “The team gave me a bloody good car for qualifying, and we put it on the front row on the last lap of qualifying, which was even sweeter. To come away with a podium and even lead a couple of laps as well was awesome.”

Since then, the Toyota 86 Championship has been slightly more rigid on the Baypark 28M, with the latest round at Manfeild producing two unfortunate DNFs and an 18th.

Such results are character-building and an unfortunate part of racing for any driver. Ultimately, it’s the way you bounce back which matters. He has the opportunity to do just that in the championship’s final round at Hampton Downs on the first weekend of this month.

He currently sits 12th in the standings as the fourth-best rookie.

Back at Baypark, Hodson’s continued to run in the Sprintcar whenever possible, evidently continuing to better himself by failing to finish outside the top 10 more often than not in every race he’s finished this year. Along the way, he’s secured several more top-three finishes in heats.

That elusive first Feature podium, and win, is well within reach.

Most recently, Hodson ventured out in a Z4 M Coupe in the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series 1-Hour at Hampton Downs on April 22, in Class 4 &5.

Sharing his drive with the ever-fast Cantabrian Brett Sullivan, the duo faced limited runtime in Friday’s practice due to electrical issues with the car.

A wet Saturday greeted the pair, but they relented, driving to overall class honours in a trying race that presented plenty of drama.

Hodson in action at Baypark. Image James Selwyn

It should be noted that the entire race was run on a wet tarmac track, further emphasising Hodson’s adaptability to perform at a high level on any surface presented.

They’ll return to action in the 1-Hour at Taupo later this month before heading to the South Island Endurance Series, where strong results will further cement their claim to the crown.

As it stands, Ayrton Hodson is a genuine possibility to be a New Zealand Endurance Series Champion by year-end.

Of course, at such a young age, a time will come when a decision needs to be made as to where his career heads.

For now, however, New Zealand dirt track and circuit racing fans will get to enjoy watching this talented youngster continue to grow.

“I love doing both,” he says. “There will come a point where I have to pick one or the other, but at the moment, we’re still exploring options and what kind of paths we can take with dirt and tarmac. It’s still kind of a plan in progress at the moment, I guess.”

With the backing of his father, fellow Baypark regular Paul Hodson, and sponsors including the likes of Llama Racefuel, Llama Engineering, Liquimoly, Raceworks, Eye Spy

Security, BOP Signs and Pacific Toyota, there’s little telling where this talented teenager could end up.