New Zealand largest annual sporting event, the V8 Supercar street race in Hamilton, has attracted a long-term naming sponsor in the shape of New Zealand's largest independent building merchant group, ITM

The third running of the event, set for 16-18 April next year, will be the first of three to be backed by the company, and will be known as the ITM 400. Taking over from the popular Pukekohe as New Zealand's sole V8 Supercar round, Hamilton has attracted 300,000 fans in its first two years on the calendar.

"To secure a naming sponsor of this significance provides increased commercial credibility and to achieve this outcome in the current economic climate speaks volumes for the stature of our event and our belief that V8 Supercars can deliver a value for money, positive return on investment for sponsors," event director Steve Vuleta said.

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"ITM have been a sponsor in the last two years. They are a strong New Zealand company with nationwide distribution, their customers are part of our key demographic mix and ITM has excellent brand and corporate values."

ITM has more than 90 branches nationwide, and has already been involved in the creation of the Hamilton event.

"The whole team at ITM is thrilled to be the naming sponsor for the ITM 400," CEO Gordon Buswell noted, "We have built our brand to attract customers, build credibility with suppliers and excite our people, and the ITM 400 undoubtedly achieves all three.

"This will be our third year of involvement in what has become NZ's largest sporting event. The construction of the track, its removal, the precision of the racing teams and the responsiveness to the needs of the motor racing public are all measures of professionalism that we are thrilled to be part of. We look forward to being part of the success of the ITM 400 team for at least the next three years."

The announcement has naturally met with a positive response from V8 Supercar organisers, who are keen to see the series venture across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

"The ITM 400 in Hamilton is, without doubt, the best sporting event in New Zealand - and it is also a vital part of our championship and its' long-term future," executive chairman Tony Cochrane said, "It is sensational news that ITM, a company that is enjoying such tremendous growth, has chosen to increase its sponsorship to naming rights level. It clearly shows that companies associated with our sport, the V8 Supercar brand and the great events we stage bring with them significant rewards for our partners."

Event organisers, pleased with a favourable date in the last week of the school holidays, also had good news for racegoers in the current economic climate, with a revised look at ticket pricing. A new flexi-stand ticket - the ultimate general admission ticket - complements revised and larger gold level grandstands and significant lowering of pricing in all silver grandstand and general admission categories.

"We have reduced our pricing for general admission and silver grandstands by approximately 30 per cent," Vuleta said, "Fans will be able to come to the event for as little as $19 for the day, and we have converted four of our existing grandstands to the new flexi-ticket seating. Basically, this is an enhanced general admission ticket, but with
the benefit of a non-reserved grandstand seat - all for only $95 for all three event days. These seats will operate on a first-in first-served basis, while children under 15 are free for general admission. Overall, we think this is excellent value for money entertainment."

The Hamilton event, which was an inspiration for the successful new street race in Townsville and the upcoming round in Sydney, has become a key part of the championship, according to Australia's most decorated driver, Mark Skaife.

"Driving in the very first Hamilton 400 was an experience I will never forget," he said, "It is just such a well run, first class weekend. To come back again this year as a Seven television commentator, it was hard to believe they could top year one but they did exactly that. There's no question the ITM 400 in Hamilton has a special place in V8 Supercars as what I call a signature event. It sits alongside the very best of our events each year."