Road racer tells Andy McGechan why he's putting retirement on hold
Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R1000) is determined to defend his national superbike crown in 2015. Photos / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Retirement didn't last very long for Dennis Charlett. The Canterbury crusader will again spearhead the Suzuki assault on New Zealand's motorcycle road race titles in 2014-15.
The 45-year-old former national 125cc and 600cc champion finally became the New Zealand superbike (1000cc) champion earlier this year and he did it with relative ease -- despite intense racing throughout the four-round series.
Charlett (Underground Brown Suzuki GSX-R1000) had built up enough of a points lead at the two South Island rounds of the series at the start of this year that, by the time racing headed up for the two North Island rounds, he was in a strong position.
The Christchurch man then did all that he needed to do at the final round at Manfeild in March -- finishing 7-8-6-2 in his four races that weekend -- to seal the premier title ahead of Australian BMW rider Linden Magee, then promptly announcing his retirement.
But Charlett has decided "you can never say never" and he announced he will be back again on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 bike when the 2014-15 season gets under way, starting with the three-round Suzuki Series at Hampton Downs on December 6 and followed by the national championships.
"I've sold my title-winning bike to Wanganui's Jayden Carrick, so I will be starting from scratch with setting up another bike, the one previously raced by [Australia's five-time former New Zealand superbike champion] Robbie Bugden," said Charlett, general manager of a sheet metal fabrication workshop.
"I'm really looking forward to racing it. I'm lucky enough that, with all the work I've done, I already have some pretty good base settings and so I'll be 90 per cent ready to win right from the start.
Suzuki GSX-R1000, Dennis Charlett
"This will be my third season on a superbike after I finished third outright in 2013, then won the title this year. I also won the Suzuki Series in the class in 2012 and I'd like to win that again, as well as win the day on the streets of Wanganui on Boxing Day. That's something I'd really like to tick off my bucket list.
"I believe I'm riding better now than at any time in my career, although I don't know how many years I will keep this up. They say it's harder to defend a title than win it in the first place, so I've just got to man up and go harder to defend my title. The support I'm getting from Suzuki, and my other sponsors too, is fantastic."
With Charlett again leading the way, the Suzuki strike force looks strong, with such talented riders as Wellington's national No3 Sloan Frost, Auckland's national No4 Jaden Hassan and Christchurch's John Ross also riding GSX-R1000 machines.
Charlett will have his work cut out to defend his title against Frost, Hassan and Ross, along with stiff opposition expected from Carrick, Hamilton's Nick Cole (Kawasaki), Whakatane's Tony Rees (Honda), New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki), Taupo's Scott Moir (Suzuki) and Feilding's Craig Shirriffs (Suzuki).
The threat posed by Ross will be of particular interest. Ross won the 600 supersport class title last season and is expected to be a contender on the bigger machine.
Classes show young people safety tips and how to cope with emergencies on the road.
Hamilton mechanics student David Randall-Leon about to take off wearing goggles that simulate what it's like to drive while intoxicated - all under the watchful eye of instructor Stu Owers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Fifty youngsters took to the track at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in Waikato to test-drive a road-safety course which aims to teach vital skills.
The Audi Driving Academy is backed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and is the first of its kind to be tested here for drivers aged from 18 to 24.
Participants were taken through safety exercises by professional drivers that included lane changing, braking with Anti-locking System Brakes and normal brakes, skid pan driving and learning how to react to sudden distractions.
Audi New Zealand general manager Dean Sheed said: "We tried to show the real-world effects of driving, to teach them the basics that they won't have achieved getting standard teaching.
"Thing like techniques you need to have to avoid getting into trouble in the first place, but if you can't avoid it, how to deal with it positively."
Mr Sheed said the company subsidised the cost of the course for participants, most of whom were customers or their children. However, 40 per cent of the group were not associated with the brand, and Audi paid for them to travel from around the country to participate free.
Depending on feedback, the course may be rolled out nationwide.
"Part of our business is driver education and I think a lot of people have a role to play in increasing driver education in the community."
Racecar driver Andrew Waite, 24, spoke to participants, drawing on his own accident at the V8 Supercars in Pukekohe last month.
"You never know what's around the corner, whether on the race track or the road, and developing the right driving techniques can be the difference between life and death," he said.
Hamilton student David Randall-Leon, 18, said he had been driving since he was 15, but learned a lot yesterday.
"It was great fun and experience too. You learn skills that you didn't think were possible.
"I learned about vision, like how having to look just not one or two car spaces in front of you but planning out your next step before you get to it."
The Wintec mechanics student was also surprised by the difference safety features played, and said cars with modern technology felt safer.
Day on track helps break bad habits
Pretending a row of blue road cones is a small child running in front of your car can be distracting, especially when you knock down a few of those cone "children".
But apparently, as my professional driving instructor Tim Martin said, that is okay.
"You don't want your first practice run to be that accident; you need to know how to get yourself out of trouble."
It was a far cry from being behind the wheel of my Honda Civic on the suburban streets of Auckland, but the skills learned during the trial at the Audi Driving Academy were valuable.
The instructor took me through three safety exercises: braking, changing lanes and improving vision.
Speeding at up to 80km/h on the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park track, I was instructed to slam the ABS brakes as hard as I could and steer the car around the cone "children". It's a manoeuvre that could have dire consequences if I was in a vehicle without a decent set of brakes.
"A race track is just somewhere that has no oncoming traffic, it is somewhere that gives us a closed road, somewhere you can make mistakes," Mr Martin said. And a place where important lessons can be learned for the 18- to 24-year-old drivers whom the pilot programme targeted.
During the lane change exercise I was again instructed to build up speed and dart around more cones on a wet surface before coming to a halt after the obstacle.
Further laps of the course concentrated on vision and looking hundreds of metres into the distance instead of a few car lengths ahead.
Since the lesson, I am more conscious of my driving, whether it is changing lanes, turning corners or paying attention to potential hazards.
V8s legend raising cash for a cause, writes Eric Thompson
Greg Murphy will donate proceeds from the charity auction to help cure Type 1 diabetes. Picture / Jason Dorday
One of New Zealand's best exponents of V8 driving, and four-time Bathurst winner to boot, Greg Murphy is "lightening his load" tomorrow, by auctioning off hundreds of pieces of memorabilia he's collected over his long and illustrious career.
Folk who would love to own anything from a race suit to a model car with just about everything in between had better make plans to get themselves down to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park by 10am.
Murphy's two sons suffer from Type 1 diabetes and a fair chunk of the proceeds will be going to the Spinal Cord Society of NZ (SCSNZ) to advance vital cord blood stem cell research aimed at the reversal of this condition.
In fact, the proceeds of the 20 V8 Supercar hot laps, already at nearly $13,000, have been earmarked for the charity.
Murphy and the family are now back living in New Zealand and he and his dad decided they didn't need everything they'd collected over the years, so hence the auctioning off of race overalls, limited edition prints, caps, die cast collectable cars and team apparel.
"Supporting the trial benefits all sufferers of Type 1 diabetes," Murphy said. "I know the regional diabetes support groups around New Zealand do amazing work, but I really wanted to focus on the big picture rather than one or two areas. The SCSNZ trial addresses diabetes at the source; a cure is always the ultimate goal," said Murphy.
"I've been a bit of a hoarder for a long time and when we moved back to New Zealand we had boxes of stuff that have been in boxes for ages. I started thinking it was unlikely any of it was going to come out of the boxes and I don't need to see stuff to remind me what I've achieved in my career. And I certainly don't want it hanging on the walls in the house.
"There are a few things that have value and memories for me, which I'll keep, but there's tonnes of stuff that will have value to other people who like to collect this stuff. It's an opportunity for people who like this kind of thing to be able to have a piece of it.
"It's a great opportunity to raise, through motor racing, awareness of the Spinal Cord Society and raise some money and there's enough stuff there to suit everyone."
There's a lot of history and heritage on offer including his 1997 HRT race suit from his first fulltime V8 Supercars season where he won his second Sandown 500 victory with Craig Lowndes. There is also the 2002 Kmart Racing suit from his infamous five-minute penalty at Bathurst, the race gear from the 2003 Bathurst pole-setting 2:06.8594 "lap of the gods" and Bathurst win. Plus the 2004 Bathurst-winning race suit and those worn during the Bathurst 24-hour win with Peter Brock.
Along with the auction, there will also be a drifting display, a Formula 5000 car and a McLaren on display. If you can't make the live auction, go to www.murphhotlaps.com and register for items.
Picutre this: I'm 15 and learning to drive. My mum is in the passenger seat and we're driving down a quiet, deserted street in Whangamata in the middle of winter.
A car is coming towards me, the driver tootling along well under the 50kmh speed limit. For some reason, still unbeknown to Mum or I to this day, I freak out, take my hands off the wheel, close my eyes and cruise quietly into the left hand curb. The orange Suzuki Alto comes to a gentle stop on the footpath. I've never lived it down.
But last week I proved, if only to myself, that my driving skills have improved 18 years on. And they'd need to - there's no closing your eyes and taking your hands off the wheel of a vehicle when you're pushing 190kmh down the back straight of a race track.
I was at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park to take part in BMW's driving experience day. I was originally booked in for the level one course. However, there were more participants who wanted to take the advanced level two course so the course content was bumped up to the next level. It still catered for those who were better suited to level one content, but I, for one, wound up pleased to take part in the more challenging level two course.
First up was a briefing from instructor Mike Eady. An accredited motorsport licence examiner and gifted racing driver, Mike travelled to Munich for training at the BMW instructor academy eight years ago. The programme is rigorous and not all get through. Mike completed four levels of training and is now a qualified senior BMW instructor - one of only a handful in the world.
Mike covered off some basics - how we should grip the steering wheel (at quarter to three, not ten to two!), how to work out our optimum seating positions, and where our eyes should be looking.
Then we're buddied up, two to a car, and we're introduced to our vehicles for the day. Each pair has a shiny, near new straight six turbo powered 330D for the day.
My teammate for the day is Mark, a savvy, quick-witted businessman from Christchurch. He has a penchant for cars, particularly fast ones. His latest pride and joy is his BMW 6 series Gran Coupe.
We've run through the course during the briefing but now it's time to check it out from behind the wheel. Mike's told us how to find the lines of the track and there are cones placed strategically to help with this. A few laps of the course and we've started to memorise it. The pace is swift, but manageable. And Mike's giving us pointers over the portable RT that sits in the centre console - "hug that right line a bit more", "brake a bit harder into that corner, Dani" (they remember everyone's names!).
Each driver completes several laps before we head back to the pits.
Next up is the skid pan. The purpose-built skid pan was completed in October 2010. Perfectly smooth, aside from a rough 2m perimeter, the 100mx50m skid pan has water jets to wet the surface.
Mike talks us through what the cars will do when they're on the skid pan. Even at 30kmh, with traction control turned off they'll start to skid. Take your foot off the throttle and steer out of the skid, he says. And if that doesn't help, brake!
For some reason I think the other instructor is getting into the passenger seat with us, but he's not. I'm in there on my own. My nerves kick in and my stomach does somersaults. What if I go too fast and spin out and crash into the concrete barrier?!
But any fear of crashing is soon extinguished. Sure, it's slippery but Mike's tips are spot on and the car glides around the course. I steer out of a few skids before Mike calls me off the course so the next two cars can have a turn.
"Are you a farmer's daughter?" Mike asks after I've parked the car and rejoined the other spectators. "Nope, I'm a city girl through and through. Why's that?"
"You can normally pick the ones who've grown up on a farm, can drive in the wet and get out of skids like that. You did really well."
I'm quietly pleased with myself. The week or so before the event, my competitive nature had kicked in and I admit was worried the boys in the group would all out perform me. Turns out I had nothing to worry about there.
We each get another turn on the skid pan, this time I push the car a bit hard and spin out twice. Just because I can. And while it's a bit of fun, it was also good to have that experience. I don't want to find myself in a skid but at least I have a better understanding of how to try and get out of one.
It's off to lunch where others on the course want to know what other things we've tried out for this column. Sacha goes for things that involve heights, I tell them. I go for things that involve speed. Like today.
That competitive streak kicks in again as we all pile back into our cars and head down to the slalom course. I'm pleased to be doing the level two course today because that involves a considerably longer slalom course than the level one drivers do.
Mike takes us through the course: a tight slalom, short blat up to a more open slalom set, boot it up to the corner, around the bend, boot it again and hard brake before throwing the car around a cone, foot down as we head back to the corner and back down the straight, open slalom, short burst, tight slalom and boot it back home, slamming the brakes on right at the end.
We get three runs, each is timed. Mike adds two seconds for every cone we hit and an extra six seconds if we knock the cone over at the end, signalling that we haven't braked soon enough.
The boys are amped. I am too, just quietly. It's my turn and, like the boys, take off with tyres squealing. I misjudge the length of the car and the angles of the slalom and knock three cones over. I know it and I'm pissed off with myself.
My time wasn't bad at 1 minute 28 seconds, but my cone penalties takes that out to 1:34. My next time is better, at about 1:24.
There's a leaderboard back up in the pavilion with the top 10 times for the short level one slalom and the longer level two slalom. Anything under 1 minute 20 is good, says Mike. The top time is 1:17:71.
A couple of the guys are gunning for a top 10 placing. But the rules have changed for the last round. If you knock a cone over, you're disqualified.
Mike's egging them on but warns them to watch out for me: "she's a dark horse that one".
I'm sitting at the start line and give myself a pep talk: get your speed and steering motion consistent. Breathe. You can do it.
I scream off down the track and nail the tight slalom and the open one. My foot is hard down as I boot it to the corner, brake hard, and foot down again to the half way mark. Rule of thumb is half way is generally about 45 seconds. My teammate Mark tells me later that I swung the 330D around at 40 seconds. I nail the open slalom and my pace is good but I start to worry about my time and I knock the third to last cone over. Insert expletive here!!
But my time is 1:22:48, just two seconds slower than the fastest guy in the third round who clocked 1:20:48.
We head back up to the pits. The other two women did fine on the slalom, few cones knocked over but their times weren't up there.
Mike splits us into two groups for the faster laps of the day. I've made it into the "fast" group with the boys. Yuss!!
Throughout the day, Mike talks about how the car feels in the seat of your pants. You can feel if you're pushing too hard on the throttle, or if you've taken the wrong line in that corner. Well, Mark takes the wheel first for the second lot of laps and I can tell you, as a passenger, I felt everything in the seat of my pants.
He drives like a pro, but it's rather terrifying being a passenger at 180kmh.
By the time we head back to the pits to change places, I'm ready for my turn! Mark offers helpful tips about when to turn out of a corner, what lines to aim for and offers plenty of encouragement on the gas.
"We don't have to pay for the tyres! C'mon Dani, give it s**t!" he grinned! And I do and can feel, as Mike says, how the car handles through the seat of my pants. She handles beautifully around the corners and as I put my foot down hard on the back straight, I can feel her wanting to keep pulling as we nudge 190kmh before braking hard ahead of the upcoming bend.
We round out the day with hot laps in an M3. It's the last of its generation in New Zealand with its throaty V8 engine. The new M3 is due to be launched here in a couple of months. It'll be more powerful with its M TwinPower Turbo straight 6-cylinder petrol engine, but it won't sound the same as the V8.
While the day is entertaining and exhilarating, instructors also impart valuable basic knowledge of safety-related principles and the laws of driving dynamics.
The late, great Peter Brock said circuit racing was the most fun you can have with your pants on. I reckon he was right.
BMW's Driver Training days run regularly at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. They also hold Alpine xDrive courses at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds near Queenstown. For more information, Google "BMW driving experience".
POLE POSITION: Alan "Flea" Willacy (left) takes delivery of the latest Suzuki Kizashi from Suzuki NZ general manager of motorcycle and ATV marketing Simon Meade ahead of the 2014 competition.
The growing popularity of the Suzuki Series that culminates with the Boxing Day motorcycle meeting on Wanganui's Cemetery Circuit has not gone unnoticed.
The three-round series has captured the imagination and support of the general public and staunch motorcycling fans since its inception in 2008 and now rivals the national championship in terms of rider and spectator popularity.
The event's success has prompted major sponsor Suzuki New Zealand to sign on for another two years.
With its headquarters in Wanganui at the start of the Cemetery Circuit's famous chicane on Heads Rd, Suzuki New Zealand again retains naming rights for the 2014 series that begins at Hampton Downs on December 6, before moving to Manfeild in December 13-14 and ending in Wanganui on December 26.
"We are thrilled to have Suzuki come on board again," series organiser Alan "Flea" Willacy said yesterday.
"They are such a brilliant company to work with and do some fantastic things for the sport in general too. It makes things easy for me to have such great support behind me."
Regarded as a pre-nationals warm-up competition, the Suzuki Series began as a tri-series and, while it remains a three-round series, expectations are high that it will expand. Its popularity has gone well beyond New Zealand borders and is rapidly becoming a regular competition for international racing teams.
Last year's series attracted a good number of international visitors, including flamboyant Englishman Guy Martin, Italian supermotard ace Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, German pair Thomas Kreutz and Steve Mizera and a slew of Australians - Chris Seaton, Graig Trinder, Linden McGee and father and daughter pair Phil and Sophie Lovett.
"The entries are already starting to flow in," Willacy said.
Participants prepare for the Wings for Life World Run 2014 in Barcelona, Spain on October 6th, 2013 // Samo Vidic/Red Bull
Tens of thousands of runners around the world will set off on a history-making journey in a simultaneous global race for charity in 32 different countries this Sunday, May 4, for the first-ever Wings for Life World Run.
Hundreds of New Zealand runners will begin their part of the race from Auckland's Hampton Downs Raceway at 10pm NZT.
In California the event starts at 3am, in London the event starts at 11am, while competitors in Germany will set off at midday.
The top prize will be an extraordinary month-long trip around the world for the best male and female runners.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of spinal cord injury in the western world, emphasising the local importance of the mission of this truly global event; to raise funds to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Online registrations have now closed, but runners can register on-site at the event from 6pm.
This will be the last chance for anyone to be involved in the once-in-a-lifetime experience and compete against the world. Those wanting to spectate from home, can watch a global live feed on Sky Sport 2, from 9pm.
Although the run is open to participants 18 years or older of all levels, shapes, sizes and abilities there are several favourites to win the race.
Our current Coast to Coast champion and Red Bull endurance athlete Braden Currie will be leading the Auckland pack, and competing against the likes of Takahiro Sunada in Austria, a Japanese ultra-marathon runner who holds the world record for 100 kilometers (6:13:33.)
Other local ambassadors include rugby legend Dan Carter, Paralympic sailor and Christchurch hero Andrew May, America's Cup participant Dean Baker, Red Bull kayak expedition athlete Ben Brown, and media personalities Jay Reeve and Andrew Mulligan.
"Unfortunately rugby is one of the leading sporting contributors to spinal cord injury in New Zealand. Being a professional rugby player makes this charity close to home," says Carter.
"It would be so great to know for any New Zealander that has the unfortunate accident involving a spinal cord injury, that there is a possibility of a cure."
Participants run in front of the Wings for Life World Run Catcher Car in Oberwolz, Austria on March 13th, 2014 // Samo Vidic/Red Bull
The remarkable feature of the first global sporting event of its kind is that a moving finish line will be chasing the runners from behind, instead of the runners dashing towards a fixed finish line.
The run will start at precisely 10pm NZT and will end when the last male and female runner is caught by one of the 'Catcher Cars.'
All runners' results will be recorded by a timing tag hidden in each runner's Individual Race Number.
This tag is activated as they cross the start line and is deactivated when they are passed by a Catcher Car.
The last male and female runners will win an unforgettable highlight-filled journey that features stops in Salzburg, Istanbul, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Fiji, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro.
The New Zealand track will start at Hampton Downs Raceway, giving runners a unique opportunity to begin their journey on one of New Zealand's premium racetracks.
After completing a circuit, runners exit over State Highway 1 and head east towards the Firth of Thames.
Runners will veer left onto State Highway 25, before pointing north towards Miranda. The track continues up the coast, over the Hunua Ranges, before descending into Kawakawa Bay.
Mahindra North Island Endurance Series secure TV coverage
The inaugural Mahindra North Island Endurance Series has secured a TV package for its three events which blast off in June at the Pukekohe 6 Hours.
There will be a 30 minute round up of the series on TV3's CRC Motorsport after the conclusion of the series along with three minute race reports on Sky's new motorsports show Sky Speed (presented by Greg Murphy and Steven McIver) after each of the races. This will combine with regular updates during each weekend from the series social media partner Velocity along with the series’ own marketing efforts.
The package was put together by Robert Young, Director of Mahindra New Zealand, who wanted to bring the racing action from the series to New Zealand motorsport fans.
"Its great news for the series and the competitors that TV coverage has been secured and it will add to our own coverage plan," explained series board member Kel McBeath.
"The major philosophy of the series is to put the drivers and teams first, and to get everyone working together off track to create three great events. Mainstream TV offers a great opportunity to the drivers to secure some valuable profile and airtime for themselves and their sponsors and we must thank our naming rights sponsor Mahindra for helping us make it all possible."
Organisers are aiming for grids of 45 cars at each of the three events and early interest has been huge, with several other key announcements on additional classes that will be created to cater for the demand imminent. Drivers can enter the series at http://www.motorsportentry.com/ or alternately call Karen Dovey on 0274995604.
The Mahindra North Island Endurance Series commences with the Pukekohe 6 Hour on June 7, before moving to Taupo on July 5 and concluding at Hampton Downs on July 26.
FACE OF PAIN: Competitors ''enjoy'' the electric wires during the Tough Mudder event at Hampton Downs, south of Auckland. St John treated around 115 people and two people were taken to hospital with fractures.
STILL SMILING: One competitor has no complaints about her mud bath.
Ice water, electric cables, tunnels, giant climbing walls, and oceans of mud - do we need this in NZ?
The totem of the rapidly growing obstacles-and-mud racing circuit, Tough Mudder (the self-proclaimed toughest event on the planet) made its New Zealand debut yesterday in a sea of rancid Waikato gunge.
Having grown from one event in 2010 to 14 in 2011 to 65 worldwide this year, Tough Mudder has made a very rich man of its founder, British former soldier and Harvard graduate Will Dean.
Thousands flocked to Hampton Downs raceway near Huntly yesterday, paying up to $240 each to hurl themselves across, under, over and through 18 purpose-built obstacles on a 20km course.
As Brooke Howard-Smith warmed up the punters, some looked more reluctant than others. I was among them. Having been challenged by two friends with whom I'd completed Outward Bound last year, I'd entered without realising quite what was ahead.
Within the first kilometre, we were covered head-to-toe in thick mud. But that was all right, because within 3km it was all washed off again - after a compulsory total submersion in a bin full of ice (the cheerfully-named Arctic Enema).
This pattern continued - mud, mud, cold water, as we went through tunnels, crawled beneath barbed wire and live electric cables, swam under cages, leapt into a muddy pit, sprinted up a greased half-pipe and climbed angled walls. There's no timekeeping and an emphasis on camaraderie - most obstacles are unachievable without teamwork.
The final hurdle - Electro Shock Therapy - was a gauntlet of dangling 10,000 volt wires. I saw a bright light and woke, stunned, in a puddle.
The crowd cheered. There was a final stumble to the finish chute. And for all this you get an insipid citrus-flavoured beer, a T-shirt, a fetching orange headband . . . and, should you wish it, a discount on next year's race.
Toughest ever? Nah. Lots of fun? Yeah. Will Dean is a smart man.
Steve Deane needs the help of Pua Magasiva on the Tough Mudder course at Hampton Downs. Photo / Dean Purcell
I'd be buggered without Pua, that much is obvious.
A row of eight water-filled trenches interspersed with clay mounds, Mud Mile didn't appear all that challenging.
That was before taking the plunge. From the bottom of the first trench it's clear there's no way I'll be hauling my sodden frame up the near vertical clay bank. Luckily Pua Magasiva, actor, personal trainer and Tough Mudder ambassador, knows this.
He gives me a shove up the bank that propels my floundering frame to the top. I reach down and pull him up. We repeat the process until we get to the end of what will be one of 18 obstacles the 5000 to 10,000 "mudders" will face over the brutal 20km course at the Hampton Downs raceway this weekend.
"They love to be beaten up, they love to be tortured," says course builder Paul Mudge of your typical mudder. With obstacles such as Arctic Enema (an ice-filled trench impossible to pass through without diving right under) and Electric Eel (a mud crawl through dangling, live electric wires), the masochists have plenty to look forward to.
"All your senses are tested - fear of heights, drowning, claustrophobia," says Mr Mudge.
It may sound a little crazy, but for the fitness enthusiast seeking something more exciting than marathon running and less humiliating than Zumba, commando-style "fun" runs have struck a chord.
"Tough Mudder is the leader in the class, but the obstacle fun runs are just a phenomenon," says Tough Mudder general manager Asia Pacific Jeremy Kann.
The biggest player in a global obstacle race industry said to be worth US$250 million ($290 million), Tough Mudder has spread throughout the US, Europe, Australia and now into New Zealand in just four years, with more than 1.3 million participants.
A combination of 20-30 Australian experts and local labourers have spent four weeks creating the Hampton Downs course.
A typical mudder tends to be a 40ish mid-life crisis type, says Mr Kann. Pretty much me, then. Having conquered Mud Mile, Pua and I jog about a kilometre to Trench Warfare, where we crawl through a tight, zigzagging pitch-black cave. Claustrophobia test passed, we jog another kilometre up a hill to the Glory Blades - nasty, sloping walls I'm not getting over without Pua's leg up. The odd super athlete might conquer the Tough Mudder alone, but for the average mortal this is a team sport.
"It's about teamwork and camaraderie," says Mr Kann. "It is not about 'what's my time', it's about trying to help each other and get through. It has just been a fantastic concept that has grown legs around the world."
Speaking of legs, mine are just starting to feel it by the time Pua and I reach Everest. Having got a little lost, we've jogged maybe 4km by the time we reach the quarter-pipe skateboard ramp. This weekend's mudders will have covered more than four times that distance by the time they get here. They'll be soaked through, filthy and mentally and physically shattered.
Chances are they won't match Pua's effort of flying up the ramp and hauling himself up single-handed. Pua wants to help me up but I'm keen to have a go on my own. I make it, but not without depositing a good chunk of skin from my right elbow on the ramp. The course has extracted its pound of flesh, and I've just been playing around.
Despite an entry fee of up to $209, interest has been strong enough that Tough Mudder has committed to returning next year. So have I.
13-year-old already showing his talent in TR86 series
Christchurch 13-year-old Marcus Armstrong is the newest driver in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship. Pictures / David Linklater
Meet Marcus Armstrong, the newest driver in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship. He only joined the series at round five last month, in Taupo. He did rather well in his Neale Motorsport-run TR86, considering he didn't know the track at all: two fifth places and a seventh.
"We did go there pretty inexperienced," admits Marcus. "I'd never been there before and I didn't even have a chance to walk the track because I had school the day before."
That's correct: school. Marcus is 13, a Year 9 student at St Andrew's College in Christchurch. He's got a C-Grade motorsport licence. He just doesn't have a driver's licence yet.
Racing in the TR86 Championship is quite an achievement for somebody of his age, although Marcus has been building up to this for a long time. He's been racing for more than half of his life, starting in karts at the age of 7.
Last year Marcus won Formula Junior at the Kartsport NZ Schools Championship, the 100cc Junior Yahama class at the Kartsport South Island Sprint Championship, the Arai Junior class at the Rotax Max Challenge and was third in Junior Stock Moto at the American SKUSA Supernationals.
This year, it's all about Europe. Straight after the TR86 at Taupo, Marcus was off to Belgium for the first round of the Rotax Max Euro Challenge karting series. Next school term he has races in Italy and Spain.
Marcus is the first to admit he has a few advantages that allow him to pursue a motorsport career.
"Obviously financial help from my dad is quite nice. There are no guarantees, but with that and a reasonable amount of talent, you can go far. He's my father so wants me to be the best I can be - but if he didn't really think I was good I don't think he'd have paid for my racing."
Dad is vehicle retail magnate Rick Armstrong, who owns dealerships in Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin and Palmerston North. His product portfolio includes Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Land Rover, Jaguar, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Audi and Porsche. Last month he moved into Auckland, taking over the Giltrap Toyota business - now called Auckland City Toyota. Hence the new connection with the Toyota Finance 86 Championship.
Rick Armstrong is a racer himself, although he stresses it's only ever been for fun. A successful business enabled him to get into Porsche GT3 racing in 2001; it's a world young Marcus grew up around.
"I don't remember him missing a single meeting when he was little," says Rick. "When he was 3 he'd be there, trying to clean the car in between races."
Rick says it was clear Marcus had talent right from the start. "In truth I held him back a bit ... because I was worried about his safety. But when he started to drive he was up and running straight away."
Marcus reckons he got "quite good" around the age of 9, when he started to compete away from home in Christchurch. By that stage he had experience not only of driving, but also of setting up a kart correctly for his driving style and individual tracks.
Marcus says his time driving in Europe for Dan Holland Racing this year has been a dream come true: "They're one of the top teams, so I've known about them for a long time.
"Karting is so much bigger than it's portrayed to be. Without a doubt it's much more competitive than the cars I'm racing at the moment: you have 70-odd drivers, 30-odd of whom could win. There's only two-tenths of a second between the front runners so you don't want to be one of the stragglers at the back.
"One thing I have learned over there is that the driver has the most input. Before I went to Europe I thought that kart setup was more important than it really was. But over there, when you see all the data, you realise the driver is the most important element."
Marcus agrees that it's exciting to be on a track with young drivers who may be tomorrow's Formula One stars: "Hopefully myself as well."
The TR86 series is an ideal step because it's so driver-focused. It's a true turnkey championship: all cars competing are essentially the same, based on the roadgoing version of the 86 sports car and built by Toyota Racing in Auckland. Some setup modification by teams is allowed, but under strict parameters.
Primarily, TR86 events are about driver skill - just like karting.
The inaugural 2014 series comprises seven TR86 rounds. Hampton Downs is next, in May. Marcus hasn't driven there before either, but he's determined to better his fifth placing from Taupo.
"To my knowledge we didn't change a thing [in the car setup] at Taupo, so it was all about my driving. Hampton Downs will just be a continuation of that experience."
He's a 21st century boy: before getting into the driver's seat of the TR86, Marcus says he watched a lot of in-car video to try to get a sense of what the Toyota was like.
"But when I got there I realised it was completely different and nothing could prepare you. On the track it was all learning."
Marcus says the atmosphere among the TR86 drivers has been cordial. "It's very competitive, but they've all been nice to me. I'm not as experienced as them and they wouldn't expect me to be. Overall they've been kind: no crashes, no tension, no rivalry. But it'll get more intense as time goes on."
A 13-year-old's metabolism burns hamburgers in fine fashion, but Marcus trains and diets much the same as any racing driver. He has a home gym and works out every day.
He admits his youth gives him some leeway with food, but still avoids the takeaways: "I'd rather remain an athlete."
Formula One is the ultimate goal. Failing that, racing Porsches in Europe would "definitely be on the cards". There's no clear career path laid out yet. He'd love to do the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) next year: true open-wheel racing. But he'd also be happy in the TR86 again: "It's a tight series and it would improve my abilities considerably."
There's still school, mind. No thoughts at this stage on whether he'll be at St Andrew's for the duration: "I haven't had that discussion with my father yet. He's the one who'll make that decision. If he honestly thinks I can make it, we'll do everything we can. That may mean allowing me to leave school."
At the moment, Marcus is missing a class or two. Last term he had nearly three weeks away with karting in Europe and will have more time away next term for Italy and Spain. So aside from fitness training and circuit studies, there's a bit of school homework to catch up on.
"Luckily, I have natural intelligence thanks to my parents," says Marcus. "So I'm not struggling [at school] at all."
Charm and supreme confidence: surely the makings of a world-class racing driver.
Ask a V8 Supercar driver where he got his start on the motor racing ladder and more often than not the answer will be karts.
Ask one of the drifters gathered at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park this weekend for the fifth round of the National Drifting Championship and the answer will invariably be anything but.
Championship points leader Mike Whiddett, arguably the country's best known drifter and whose YouTube video drifting the Crown Range has had almost three million hits worldwide, was a top freestyle motocrosser before discovering drifting.
Leading South Island competitor, Christchurch's Chris Jackson, was a top skateboarder and is a former South Island Under 15 wakeboard champion.
The winner of the national championship two years ago, Curt Whittaker, admits to doing some karting as a kid. But fellow Auckland-based international Daynom Templeman got his competition start in an Off-Roader. And series guest driver, V8 Supercar ace Shane Van Gisbergen, first came to notice competing in ATV motocross.
Others have absolutely no conventional (motorised) competition background at all. Instead they spent their formative years riding skate and/or snowboards, off-road motorcycles or downhill mountain bikers.
It's the adrenalin hit they are after and they believe there is no better way of getting it (on four wheels at least) than sliding sideways round a corner in a billowing cloud of tyre smoke, only millimetres away from their battle partner at speeds of between 120 kmh and 170 kmh.
"It's actually really hard to explain, or at least it is until you can get someone in the car with you and show them," says one of the drivers expected to feature this weekend, Christchurch drainlayer Phill Sutherland. A larger-than-life character, the 31-year-old, who drives a 700 horsepower turbocharged Toyota 2JZ-powered Nissan Cefiro sponsored by his business, Drains & Developments Ltd, got into the sport through friends and says he is having the time of his life.
Interestingly, one of the things he likes best about the new sport is the short, sharp, speedway-style elimination format.
"I'm too busy with work for something like rallying," he says. "Drifting is relaxed and easy-going when you're out of the car but it's all on when you're in it."
As it has been with so many other action sports, New Zealand was both quick to grasp and put its own distinctive stamp on drifting, the by-product of late-night Touge (or canyon) racing in Japan in the early 1970s packaged into a slick stadium-style sport by driving great Keiichi Tsuchiya and magazine entrepreneur Daijiro Inada.
The D1NZ championship is in its 11th year and a South Island-only series - Drift South - has been contested since 2006.
Though still just 24, Blenheim-born Christchurch refrigeration and air-conditioning specialist Chris Jackson is a four-year veteran of the local scene, having done a couple of rounds in a friend's car before finishing ninth overall in his first season, second the next before winning the title outright in the third.
The latter result got him thinking about dipping a toe in the D1NZ water this season. After an encouraging reception at the first round at Hampton Downs in November last year he and girlfriend Nikla decided to commit to doing all six rounds.
Taking Whiddett to a ‘One More Time' (where the judges can't pick a winner after the first two battles and ask the drivers to go One More Time) at the most recent round at Taupo has been the highlight of an impressive rookie season so far, with Jackson lying ninth in the series points standings.
He's done it the hard way too, paying the lion's share of the bills for the modification and maintenance of his Nissan S14 out of his weekly wage packet while gratefully accepting support and assistance from fellow members of the Christchurch drift community.
New Zealander Howden Ganley in the F1 Williams car.
The Festival of New Zealand Motorsport's sixth annual event next year will run over its two traditional weekends - January 16-18 and January 23-25 - and will have probably the largest collection of F5000 cars ever assembled in one place.
Held at Hampton Downs, the festival will be celebrating the career of another of New Zealand's great drivers of bygone years, Howden Ganley.
Previous festivals have paid tribute to Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and Denny Hulme as well as acknowledging BMW's and Ferrari's contribution to motorsport.
Ganley, now 72, was born and raised in Hamilton, and at an early stage in life decided he wanted to be a racecar driver. He started his racing career in New Zealand, but it wasn't long before he realised that to get a leg up the international racing ladder he'd have to go to Europe.
McLaren was in the UK so Ganley pitched up and was soon working for the flying Kiwi. McLaren took him under his wing and it was in a F5000 car that Ganley turned a few heads.
After finishing second to fellow McLaren M10B driver Peter Gethin in the 1970 European Formula 5000 championship, Ganley was offered a Formula One drive with the BRM team in 1971.
In his first year in F1 Ganley was named best newcomer with a top finish of fifth, and in 1972, again with BRM, his best finish was fourth.
In 1973 Ganley moved to Frank Williams' new Iso-Marlboro team, but the car was uncompetitive. The following year he moved to March for a brief stay before his F1 career ended after a spectacular accident in the Japanese-built Maki in practice for the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring later in that year.
He then went into partnership with another Grand Prix racer, Tim Schenken, to form the Tiga (Tim/Ganley) racing car business but eventually sold out in 1987 and went into business outside racing. He also served for a period as secretary of the British Racing Drivers Club, but then moved to the United States.
The organisers of the Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs are hoping for a record lineup of cars at next year's event.
Close to 300 cars were built to contest Formula 5000 (Formula A in the United States and Canada) series around the world between 1968 and 1982.
New Zealand F5000 Association chairman Tony Roberts believes as many as 60 can be found for the two-round F5000 World Series.
"What we'd like to see is the biggest gathering of Formula 5000s ever competing under the banner of the F5000 World Series," he said.
"There are at least 40 here, a similar number in Australia plus at least 20 each in regular use in the UK and the US.
"The regular series guys will obviously be the starting point, but what we would really like is enough cars to create two grids [Hampton Downs has a limit of 32 cars a grid].
"We'll have one for those who want to compete for MSC series points and the other for those who just want to be part of the meeting and drive the car round the track at their own pace."
Formula 5000 was New Zealand's premier motor racing category from 1970 to 1975, and interest in it was revived around 12 years ago.
Key to the attraction of the cars for drivers and fans is the practical, if rather brutal, combination of their tubular steel space frame (early cars) or aluminium monocoque (later ones) chassis and stock-block 5-litre V8 engines.
In their heyday they were as quick as, if not quicker at some tracks, the Formula 1 cars of the era, yet they could be built at a fraction of the cost.
The McLaren M10B Ganley drove to second place in the 1970 European Formula 5000 Championship has been restored and is now owned by a Swiss enthusiast. Roberts hopes to reunite Ganley with it at the first festival meeting.
Organisers are working on getting guest cars to provide more flavour on and off track.
Support classes confirmed include the historic muscle cars, historic Formula Ford, saloons and Formula Junior. Several others are yet to confirm.
What to keep your teenage driver safe this winter?
On May 30th, Formula Challenge are running a "Survive the Slide" Skidpan programme at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. This is aimed at allowing the kids to learn how to recognize, understand and correct a slide in a car. This training programme is about skid awareness and not skid control. The emphasis is on the driver being able to recognize the imminent onset of loss of control and vary there driving to reduce or eliminate the risk of loss of control and to prevent a crash.
By using the Hampton Downs skidpan, it allows us the opportunity to let the kids experience a slide at slow speed with out having to teach them how to first create a slide.
The instructors will guides the students through a series of situations where they will simulate understeer, oversteer, aquaplaning, snow and icy conditions at much slower speeds than are necessary to induce loss of control in an attempt to teach the student what it feels like, and how to avoid it, in a safe environment.
For more information click here or contact Elton at email@example.com for more information or to book a place now as we only have 18 place available on the day.
ORGANISERS EYE F5000 RECORD WITH NEW ‘F5000 WORLD SERIES’ PREMIER AT 2015 FESTIVAL
The organisers of the annual New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs are eyeing a record line-up of cars as they firm up plans for the Gulf Oil-backed 2015 event which celebrates the career of Formula 1 driver Howden Ganley and the category - Formula 5000 - which helped springboard his career.
"What we'd like to see is the biggest gathering of Formula 5000s ever competing under the banner of the F5000 World Series," says the chairman of the New Zealand F5000 Association (and co-founder of the Hampton Downs circuit), Tony Roberts.
Close to 200 cars were built to contest the various Formula 5000 (Formula A in the United States and Canada) series around the world between 1968 and 1982 and Roberts believes that as many as 60 can be found for the two-round 'Formula 5000 World Series' which will be part of the Festival next year.
"There are least 40 here, a similar number in Australia plus at least 20 each in regular use in the UK and the US. The regular series guys will obviously be the starting point, but what we would really like is enough cars to create two separate grids (Hampton Downs has a limit of 32 cars per grid), one for those who want to compete for MSC series points, the other for those who just want the opportunity to be part of the meeting and drive the car round the track at their own pace."
Feature driver Howden Ganley, now 71, was born and raised in Hamilton and after resolving to become a professional racing driver after a brief start to his career here, travelled to the UK where he worked for compatriot Bruce McLaren.
McLaren took him under his wing and after finishing second to fellow McLaren M10B driver Peter Gethin in the 1970 European Formula 5000 Championship Ganley was offered a Formula 1 drive with the BRM team.
In his first year in Formula 1 in 1971 Ganley was named best newcomer with a best finish of fifth, and in 1972 - again with BRM - his best finish was fourth. In 1973 he moved to Frank Williams' new Iso-Marlboro team but the car was uncompetitive and after a short stay at March in 1974 his career in Formula 1 ended with a serious accident in the Japanese-built Maki in practice for the German Grand Prix.
Formula 5000 was New Zealand's premier motor racing category from 1970 to 1975 and interest in it was revived around 12 years ago. Key to their attraction - for both drivers and category fans alike - is the practical if rather brutal combination of their tubular steel spaceframe (early cars) or aluminium monocoque (later ones) chassis and stock-block 5-litre V8 engines.
In period they were as quick as if not quicker at some tracks than pukka Formula 1 cars yet could be built at a fraction of the cost.
The McLaren M10B Ganley drove to second place in the 1970 European Formula 5000 Championship has been restored and is now owned by a Swiss enthusiast and Roberts says he hopes to reunite Ganley with it at the first Festival meeting.
The Festival itself will run for its traditional two weekends in January 2015, with the first weekend January 16, 17 and 18 and the second weekend January 23, 24 and 25. Organisers are already working on a number of 'guest cars' that will help provide the flavour on and off track that has helped establish the Festival as the premier historic motorsports event in New Zealand which attracted a genuine 23,000 spectators over both weekends of its Ferrari-themed event earlier this year.
The new-look branding for the Gulf-supported 2015 event has also been launched today on the Festival web site and Facebook sites. Details of advance ticket offers will also be published on both on-line sites, as well as in the event's e-newsletter.
Support classes already confirmed for 2015 include the Historic Muscle Cars, Historic Formula Ford, Saloons and Formula Junior with several exciting announcements to come during the next few months on support categories for the event.
2015 will be the sixth edition of the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing with the event having celebrated Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, BMW, Denny Hulme and Ferrari since the Hampton Downs circuit was opened.
It’s with every intention of turning the rolling green hills to Mudder mud, that Tough Mudder makes its epic Kiwi debut. Sprawled around Auckland’s fastest racetrack, New Zealand’s maiden Mudder is sure to be marred in madness and mayhem. Mark our words: the City of Sails will soon turn into a city of wails.
This large-scale obstacle mud run designed by former British Special Forces agents is landing in Auckland this April.
Tough Mudder demands its ‘Mudders’ grind out a 20km course littered with obstacles including mud, ice-water, a greasy quarter-pipe and live electrical wires. Rather than being a race it is a challenge designed to test all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and teamwork.
Calling itself “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet,” Tough Mudder has seen more than a million participants across three continents muddy up and complete the challenge. The Tough Mudder phenomenon has exploded across the world in the past three years; 2014 will see more than 60 Tough Mudder events taking place globally. Hundreds of New Zealanders have already completed a Tough Mudder event overseas.
“Kiwis have a reputation for being hard core so we thought it was about time we got down here, organised an event and let them prove what they're made of,” says Drew Ward, Tough Mudder’s Senior Vice President – Asia-Pacific.
“In many ways New Zealand is the home of adventure sport but Tough Mudder is something completely different. Our events are not just for die-hard adventure sports fanatics – they’re for anyone who has the will to train and the guts to take it on. We’ve seen Mudders ranging from veterans to business executives, and beauty queens to 81-year-old grandfathers.
“At the end of the day, Tough Mudder is about teamwork and camaraderie – you simply won’t get to the end of the course without it. Completing a Tough Mudder unlocks a true sense of accomplishment,” Ward says.
And it’s not just a day for the participants. Family and friends can spectate for only $20 if pre-purchased online, or pay $40 on the day. Kids under 10 years old are free.
Tough Mudder are also looking for Volunteers to help create unconventional life-changing experiences for its Mudders out on course. There are a myriad of Volunteer roles available; from Registration to Mudder Village to out on Course and anyone is welcome to apply. As an added perk for doing so, Tough Mudder Volunteers get 90% off registration, see all the details at http://toughmudder.com.au/events/volunteer-information
One of New Zealand’s favourite sporting sons calls a spade a spade and likes to win, discovers Louise Smith.
Greg Murphy at Hampton Downs Racetrack. Photo / Jason Dorday
They say those born under the sign of Leo love the centre stage. They're talented, have a flair for the dramatic, known to be fearless and strong, they're life's high achievers, but boy, do they have fun on their way to the top. If you need someone to lead the charge, call a Leo.
No surprise to hear that Greg Murphy, born August 23, 1972, is a Leo - and Murph, as he's lovably known around the traps, has never been afraid to let us hear his roar.
"Am I a hot-head? I do have a bit of a short fuse. I'm incredibly impatient, I don't suffer fools - my wife reminds me of this all the time - and I like to think I'd be quite happy sitting around doing nothing for hours and hours, but I just can't do that.
I get scratchy.
"But if I show The Hulk, it just means I'm not fake. I don't like to cover things up to maintain a persona, that's just not me."
New Zealanders cottoned-on to his spade-a-spade, up-front attitude pretty quick.
Murphy is a favourite sporting son - he won the Bathurst 1000 four times and is one of the best-known V8 Supercar drivers - and during this interview in a bustling Auckland cafe, people interrupt to shake his hand, quietly tell him in a bloke-to-bloke way how much they admire him and what he's done.
His famous 2005 crash, then an out-on-the-track dust-up with fellow Bathurst competitor Marcos Ambrose, is a motorsport YouTube favourite. He still gets asked about it at every speaking engagement.
But suggest to Murphy that he's a legend then prepare for a rising of the hackles.
"I don't like that word. You've got to do some pretty incredible things to be labelled a legend or a sporting hero. Sportspeople shouldn't be labelled heroes. We just do what we love doing and are bloody fortunate to be doing so."
Nevertheless, this much-admired racing driver has had a Big Ben pie and a Burger King burger named after him.
And now he has his own motorsport TV show, #Skyspeed. It debuts this Thursday on Sky Sport 3 at 7.30pm and is touted as the fastest 30 minutes on television.
The weekly show will be filmed at various motorsport hotspots and include the petrolhead delights of F1, Nascar, IndyCars, V8 Supercars and Superbikes, to name a few.
Co-host and Sky stalwart Stephen McIvor can vouch for the speed aspect of the show. "We were shooting the promo in the car at Hampton Downs and Murph cheekily pointed to the speedo, which was at 236km/h."
McIvor was fine with that. "It was when we went right up the bumper of the promo car shooting in front of us that I just about wet my pants. But Jeez, it demonstrated exactly how much control Murph had over that vehicle."
Yep, Murphy takes control. As a young driver across the Tasman in the V8 SuperCar Championship he had the foresight and good entrepreneurial advice from a "couple of Aussie blokes who I've always trusted" to help guide his career on the racetrack. He became a pin-up boy for Holden.
"I could see things were starting to steamroll, after winning Bathurst and I knew it was important for me to grow my profile. It was a bit different in the motorsport industry then. There was money, we were making ads with big marketing budgets and it really was awesome."
He laughs at some of the kids these days, who approach him and say, "my Dad's a fan of yours, but my Mum loves you". Does he mind that?
"It's funny," he says wryly, indicating that he doesn't mind in the slightest. "But those mums are probably my age now and they probably remember me because of the profile back then."
Murphy severed ties with the fulltime V8 SuperCar Championship at the end of 2012. He didn't want to give up the drive and admits he went through a stage of being bitter and twisted. "I wasn't happy. The team was struggling and proposing to change manufacturers and I didn't want to do that." He could have hung up the keys for good. "I was scared, it was a big change. I was wondering how I was going to pay the bills but
I was focused. I secured a drive with an enduro team, [he co-drives again at Bathurst this year]. I was always going to come back and see what New
Zealand was offering."
That was the V8 SuperTourer Championship. He won the title last year and is currently way ahead on the table of this year's event with eight wins from nine races. There's one more V8 event over the long Anzac Weekend, then it falls to some serious winter downtime, snowboarding with the kids at Ruapehu and enjoying the new bach at nearby Taupo.
He is also eyeing up property in his home digs of Havelock North. Born there and schooled there, it's now where he wants his three children to grow up.
"I struggle with the word permanent," says Murphy. "We've been back two months and we're renting at the moment, so we really want to find the perfect spot."
The somewhat cramped inner-city suburbs of Melbourne have been home to Murphy, his wife of 11 years Monique and children Ronan, 12, Cormac, 10, and Neve, 6, for years.
He's not afraid to admit that their third child was a little unplanned.
"Complete and utter laziness on my behalf. I was shocked," he says, shaking his head, "But Neve has turned out to be the biggest amount of fate that will ever guide me. She is hilarious, crazy and fantastic entertainment for us."
There is big Irish ancestry in the Murphy clan - hence the children's names. Monique, a Wellingtonian, is also of Irish descent. "Maybe the next cuisine they name after me will be a spud," Murphy laughs.
It was Monique who, during the clean-out and box-packing from Melbourne, discovered Murphy's school reports. "I certainly won't be showing those to my children," he says shrinking down in the chair.
"They all say the same thing, year after year, 'Greg would achieve a lot more if he wasn't continuously acting the class clown'. I wouldn't say I was the most popular kid at school but I managed to make some lifelong friends."
His eldest son Ronan is already a regular on the local Hawke's Bay karting scene - right where Murphy started his career with his father Kevin by his side. "He's obsessed, to my dismay, but hey, what did I think was going to happen?
"I was late getting started in the big cars. I was 19.
I won a scholarship at Manfeild. Had it not been for that, I might never have had a career in racing.
"Dad and I just thought it was going to be karting. It wasn't even worth talking about anything bigger because it was like a dream that was never going to happen. But he knew that was what I wanted."
And so the dream came true. Murphy can't yet put a date on when he'll stop racing. "I still love to compete."
He's yet to see Rush, Ron Howard's movie detailing the fierce Formula One rivalry between Austrian Niki Lauda and playboy Brit, James Hunt.
"I refuse to watch that one on a plane but what a great story. The passion, the rivalry and two people with the very same goal, yet doing it completely differently."
Murphy is no stranger to great rivalry himself. Just ask what happens when he pulls up next to a Ford at the traffic lights, behind the wheel of his incognito white Holden.
"It's funny. Some will jokingly give you the fingers; others squirm in their seats and look the other way or it's just a general hoo-ha and shout out the window."
He is new to social media. Follow him on Twitter if you like, @gmracing51, but don't expect too much interaction. "Twitter. . ." ponders Murphy. "As an information tool it's brilliant but I don't want to get into reacting to the nutbags. It would wind me up."
Murphy continues to get wound up about road safety in New Zealand. He is the face of the Motor Trade Association's in-school safety programme and he wants new drivers to have professional driver training and the skills to cope with New Zealand's unique roading conditions.
"The training side of things is absolutely critical. I can guarantee that if people had the skills and training to start with, we would be in a much better situation, where a lot of these crashes that happen would have a chance of not even happening."
He has cautionary tales of his own, writing off his beloved first car, a Datsun 1200SSS.
"I got charged. I was 18. It's probably the least proud moment of my life. I injured my passenger and I was someone who knew how to drive. You think these things aren't going to happen to you and it's naive."
He uses this incident as a tool to resonate with young hearts and minds as far as road safety goes.
That model of Datsun is now back in Murphy's personal garage. "I literally haven't owned a car for years, but I'm starting to now. Mainly early-70s muscle cars."
Favourite car of all time? "Definitely the 69 Dodge Charger. I've got one. It's a project between me and a few very passionate men in Auckland."
But don't expect to see it painted in the flashy, loud Dukes of Hazzard colours. "Daisy Duke in the front seat maybe," he giggles, with a wink.
No denying this motorsport maestro has no intention of slowing down just yet.
Join Greg Murphy and co-host Stephen McIvor on #Skyspeed, this Thursday, 7.30pm, Sky Sport 3.
Lamborghini made just 338 of the sports car model owned by Rod Stewart - being sold for just under $1.9 million.
A rare Lamborghini once owned by rocker Rod Stewart is being sold for nearly £1 million ($1.9 million) in the UK.
The singer bought the two-door Lamborghini Miura P400S new in 1971, when it did 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds with a top speed of 275 km/h - the fastest road car of its kind in the world at the time.
The pristine four-litre blue sports car with silver trim has recently undergone a £100,000 restoration and is being sold on AutoTrader for £899,999.
It is one of only 338 produced between December 1968 and March 1971. One was owned by Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis also had one, which he crashed in October 1972 after reportedly taking cocaine, breaking his ankles.
The Miura garnered worldwide appeal when it featured in the opening sequence of the Michael Caine classic The Italian Job in 1969. Stewart owned his for five years until 1976, when it was sold to a private buyer.
An AutoTrader spokesman said: "An old classic like this is rarely seen on the market now and particularly in such good condition for its age; all the love and attention has clearly kept it performing."
Each week Rachel Grunwell tries out a different exercise to bring you the lowdown.
Rachel Grunwell is trained by Pua Magasiva. Photo / Michael Craig
Tough Mudder training
What is it? About 5000 Kiwis have signed up for this hardcore, military-style, 20km obstacle course. It started overseas in 2010 as the brainchild of a former terrorism specialist in the British Special Forces, the idea being his Harvard Business School project. It's an event, not a race, so leave your competitive crazy streak behind.
It's about reaching the finish line, not the finish time, and it's for the camaraderie.
What's needed? Mongrel grit. Decent fitness.
The experience: When asked to a training session to help readers prepare for New Zealand's first Tough Mudder, I considered hiding under my desk. But I harden up and say, heck, sign me up. The offer to train with the event's ambassador, Pua Magasiva, who plays buff nurse Vinnie Kruse on Shortland Street, didn't sway me. Honest. So I meet Pua outside the Shorty St studios for the workout and ask: "How crazy will this get?" He replies: "I'm gonna push you hard - and build it up." Then giggles.
I wince and say, "I see," then ask, "What do you tell people who think this event is kind of crazy?"
He says: "It's better to be crazy with other people than by yourself."
It will be tough, but fun, he promises.
The Tough Mudder obstacle course is kept a secret. But participants are warned there may be ice-baths, walking a plank, swimming through ditches or under cages with only inches to breathe, climbing insanely high, slippery walls, crawling through small, dark tunnels, scaling dizzy heights - even electrocution. And all over 20km.
So how do you train for this pain party?
Pua recommends strength work, pull-ups, rope-climbs, stair-runs. And expect climbing, crawling and shoving. "It's an anaerobic workout with an aerobic component." Cross-fitters and circuit trainers might do well but pure weightlifters may struggle.
Pua hints that the running part should be used as "recovery" even though it will feel like aerobic stress. He wants people to help their mates. And he'll be there to make sure that last person pulls through.
So Pua gives me a taste of how to prepare: running hard for several minutes, hard-out drills such as star-jumps, push-ups and repeatedly hauling my weight over a concrete wall. The session is intense, but when I want to stop, Pua spurs me on and, being a mate, gives me a nudge over a concrete wall.
I'm beat and bruised, but when we reach the end and high-five it's a feel-good adrenalin rush. Or delirium, perhaps.
Meanwhile, I ask Pua, 34, what his fitness secrets are. He's a regular boxer and circuit trainer - and runs around after daughter Jasmine, aged 3. "Being fit is a lifestyle. It makes me happy," he says.
He went through "a bit of depression" in 2007 and was "hitting alcohol and getting angry at the world". He credits his wife Kourtney for pulling him out of these trenches and urging him to get a personal trainer's qualification "and it turned my life around". It also led to being the Tough Mudder ambassador. He loves events like this one because it spurs people to get fit and happier.
How much? Final entry $209.
Worth it? You'll get grubby, tired and swear a lot. Be prepared for people to call you crazy. But that's part of the appeal, right?
‘‘On September 11, 2004 I had a race fall and broke three vertebrae in my back.
I was extremely close to one of the vertebrae going through my spinal cord and I had to spend six weeks without moving in hospital.’’
Sobering words from Matamata’s Gemma Sliz who was thrown off her horse after she became boxed in and her horse was clipped.
‘‘I will always remember jockey Mark Sweeney just talking to me while I was lying on the track,’’ Gemma said.
The 32-year-old recognises how fortunate she was to have walked out of hospital and wants to give back, so is participating in the Wings for Life World Run.
She is also encouraging other Matamata residents to get involved.
The Wings for Life World Run is raising funds for research to cure spinal cord injury.
One hundred per cent of money raised will go to the Wings for Life foundation.
The event will be held on May 4 at 9pm and will begin at HamptonDownsRaceway.
The entry fee is $75 and participants must be aged 18 and over.
The Wings for Life World Run is a never before seen event, encompassing up to 40 locations worldwide, in which everyone runs at the same time.
On this day the world will run as one, for those who can’t. The event is for runners of all levels. The race route will be clear but runners will not be completing a set distance as the finish line will be chasing them.
Half an hour after the race begins, official catcher cars will simultaneously set off in pursuit of the runners.
The speed of the catcher cars will accelerate at determined intervals and when the catcher car passes runners; their race is over and they will catch the shuttle back to the start.
The catcher cars will eliminate competitors as they pass them, until there is one man and woman left running in each location.
Champions in each location will receive invitation to race in one of the 40 courses of their choosing in the next Wings for Life World Run.
The global champions will receive a once in a lifetime, round-the-world trip.
Gemma is aiming to run 10 kilometres in one hour and ten minutes. She is training twice a week. ‘‘I think it is a pretty good cause. More needs to be done in these sorts of injuries. I’m lucky to be able to race and raise money for those who can’t and can’t live a life basically,’’ Gemma said.
‘‘I think there is a treatment out there with all the new technology and science that is becoming available.’’
Gemma had to undertake a lot of rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk again after her accident.
‘‘I still suffer from it. I have to go for MRIs every few years to check bones haven’t moved or changed and there has been a lot of change over the years,’’ she said.
For more information about the Wings for Life event, go to wingsforlife worldrun.com
Crusaders' coach must wish he could have access to All Black's experience and skill now after rough start.
Wings For Life World Run ambassadors Daniel Carter and paralympic sailor Andrew May. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Dan Carter's last act as a rugby player was to hobble off Twickenham with yet another Achilles injury in his 100th test. His next is likely to be an appearance for his Southbridge club as he works his way back to fitness following his sabbatical.
Carter confirmed yesterday that he wants to play for the Crusaders after the June test break; first, though, he is keen to play a match or two in the blue and white hoops of his Southbridge club.
He has played only one senior match for his club: in 2009 against Hornby when his comeback from another Achilles injury - and sabbatical - drew thousands of spectators to Christchurch's Denton Oval.
The Crusaders play three matches after the test series against England - against the Hurricanes, Blues and Highlanders.
Carter's plans will be a boost for his country club and, potentially, the town of Leeston where it is based, but how Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder must wish he could have access to Carter now after a torrid start to the season in which they have lost to the Chiefs and Blues and got out of jail against the Stormers.
The Crusaders' attack has been extremely poor, their lack of penetration showing in the fact their backs have scored only three tries in three matches. They have scored five in total. Colin Slade could earn a starting spot at No 10 against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday, with Tyler Bleyendaal and Tom Taylor used at first-five with varying degrees of success.
Speaking in his role as an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run event, which will raise money for spinal injury research, Carter said he was using his break to spend time with his family and work on his injury problems in order to extend his playing career. He had surgery on his Achilles tendon after his most recent problem during the All Blacks' victory in London in November.
"The training I've been doing has been pretty basic, just getting on top of a few things that have been holding me back for the last couple of years," he said.
The list is becoming extensive and is centred around his legs - calf, Achilles tendon, hamstring and groin. He also broke a hand before the France tests in June last year and injured a shoulder when dumped in a tackle by Springbok Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in September.
Carter reached a deserved 100-test milestone against England, but he limped there to a certain extent. His various ailments meant he played only six tests last year. "The beauty of this break is that you can train harder than you would if you were playing. When you're playing week in, week out, it's more about recovery and you don't get gains. It's more about maintaining [the body].
"I'm pretty keen to play a couple of Crusaders games after the test series so that's what I'll be working towards, [and] potentially a club game or two before then." Aaron Cruden will be the All Blacks No 1 first-five while Carter is away but the 32-year-old said he wasn't thinking about the June tests or how he might feel as he watched from the grandstand.
As for the Crusaders, he also gave little away, saying he had seen only their results. "It's a pretty stock standard start by the Crusaders, to be honest - typically slow. They'll be fine, I'm sure they'll get a lot better as the competition goes on."
Accident at vintage motorsport event Saturday 08 Mar 2014 3:32p.m.
A 68-year-old man died after his 1961 Cooper open-wheel formula car failed to negotiate a sweeping bend and collided with a wall during a race at Waikato's Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
Police were called to the race venue about 1:25pm, Waikato district road policing manager, Inspector Freda Grace, said.
"Because part of the management of the event involves having emergency crews in place at the track, medical aid was available to the man straight away. However, he died at the scene," she said.
Though the incident occurred on a race track and is therefore not a road fatality, police are investigating the matter on behalf of the coroner.
An organiser told NZ Newswire that no other car was involved and a medical event may have affected the driver.
Police and ambulance attended the park on Hampton Downs Road near Te Kauwhata.
Vintage car races are scheduled to take place this weekend as part of the Roycroft Trophy.
Kiwis are 'terrible' motorists, but a few simple changes could save many lives.
Greg Murphy says road safety isn't taken seriously in New Zealand. Photo / Dean Purcell
Champion motorsport ace Greg Murphy says New Zealanders are "terrible" drivers and the country has a culture where road safety isn't taken seriously.
The four-time Bathurst 1000 winner is calling for a law change to make professional driver training compulsory for anyone trying to get a licence - a move he says will save the lives of more New Zealanders.
"We are 100 per cent not taking it seriously enough. Knowing that we could have a lot more young Kiwis, and New Zealanders as a whole, still with us if we just changed a few simple things - it's really quite ridiculous," Murphy told the Herald.
"This could change lives and I find it disturbing we haven't changed things earlier and saved people going through the pain and damage of losing someone they love on the road," he said.
"We need to make some changes sooner rather than later."
Changes in 2011 that raised the minimum driving age from 15 to 16 and applied a zero-alcohol tolerance to all drivers under 20 had started addressing some issues, but more were needed.
When testing was restructured in 2012 to make it harder to obtain a restricted licence, the concept of professional driver training was left off the safety checklist, he said.
Transport Authority figures for that year showed 61 Kiwis aged from 15 to 24 were killed on roads here, and a further 3378 were seriously injured.
"The issue here is driver training," Murphy said.
"Drivers these days, and their parents, came up in generations where there was no compulsory training and there still isn't."
Murphy, who is also the face of the Motor Trade Association's in-school safety programme, wants new drivers to have the skills to cope with New Zealand's unique roading conditions.
"The training side of things is absolutely critical. I can guarantee that if people had the skills and training to start with, we would be in a much better situation, where a lot of these crashes that happen would have a chance of not even happening."
He said safety features of cars compensated for human error and increased the chance of survival, but nothing compensated for a lack of knowledge and skills.
"The level of skills in New Zealand is just terrible, the culture that we have got, and as long as there is no skills training we are going to stay very bad drivers.
"If people had a little bit more understanding of what they were doing and the risks associated with what they were doing and had the training, they wouldn't make those errors."
Waikato University transport psychologist Dr Robert Isler said raising the driver age to 18 could also have a positive impact on road safety.
"We have done lots of research on young people and I think 16 is still too young.
"We have proof that the licensing should be made harder and more challenging so that people train more and have more supervised driving from their parents and can take up professional training as well - there should be more focus on coaching," Dr Isler said.
New Zealand was one of the worst-performing countries in the developed world when it came to young people dying on the roads, he said.
Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government's changes, part of its Safer Journeys 10-year road safety strategy, were working and he did not see a need to raise the minimum driving age or implement compulsory training.
"Four years in, and we're seeing some positive results," he said. "2013 was the lowest road toll in 60 years. The number of 16- to 24-year-olds seriously injured on our roads in 2013 was 37 per cent lower than four years ago.
"This downward trend is pleasing to see, but there are still too many young people - particularly young men - involved in serious crashes, and this age group will continue to be a focus for the Government."
The new North Island Endurance Series has today confirmed global automotive manufacturer Mahindra as the title sponsor for the inaugural three round series which takes place this year.
The sponsorship is the first for Mahindra in New Zealand, although the company is a major sponsor in NASCAR and Moto GP amongst its motorsport projects, and has its own team in the forthcoming Formula E series - a global championship around city-based street circuits for electric powered single seater racing cars that will go from standstill to 100kph in approximately 3 seconds. As well as having title sponsorship of the new endurance series and a presence at each of the three events, Mahindra will also provide the official safety car for the events.
The Mahindra North Island Endurance Series dates are the 6th and 7th of June at Pukekohe, the 5th and 6th of July at Taupo and 25th and 26th of July at Hampton Downs.
The sponsorship of the endurance series by a brand fresh to New Zealand is welcome news for organisers. "Even though everyone involved in the new series has experience of running and promoting motorsport events, we all know how difficult it is for any level of the sport to secure worthwhile sponsorship these days," explained series board member Kel McBeath. "Mahindra want to be involved with the series right from the outset and are as enthusiastic as the organisers about making it a success. We couldn't ask for a better and more willing partner."
The Taupo rouud will include a 1 hour and 3 hour race, while the Hampton Downs and Pukekohe events will include 1, 3 and 6 hour races. Class 1 will be for vehicles powered by engines of 3501cc and over, Class 2 for engines between 2001cc and 3500cc, Class 3 1601cc to 2000cc and Class 4 up to 1600cc. There will also be a GT class for the more exotic cars. Equivalence factors will be Forced Induction x 1.7 and Rotary Engine x 1.8.
A brand recently new to New Zealand, the Indian-owned Mahindra operation nonetheless has a long history involved in many aspects of the automotive industry. It was founded in 1945 as steel trading company and entered automotive manufacturing in 1947 with the iconic Willies Jeep. Today the company spans 18 key industries including Aerospace, Agribusiness, Automotive, Components, Construction Equipment, Defence Vehicles, Energy, Farm Equipment, Finance, Industrial Equipment, I.T. and Logistics to name just a few. Mahindra employees 180,000 employees in over 100 countries across the globe and has an annual turnover in excess of US$16.2 billion. Today, its focus is utility, light commercial and passenger vehicles."
Singaporean misses out on wins but grabs top spot through steady performance
Martin Rump won the New Zealand Motor Cup. Photo / Geoff Ridder
Singaporean driver Andrew Tang was grinning from ear to ear as he left the Hampton Downs racetrack last night as the points leader in the Toyota Racing Series. Tang grabbed another fistful of points at the fourth round of the series to knock Jann Mardenborough off the top perch.
Tang, who contested the championship last year, has been Mr Consistent over the 12 races so far and is justifiably sitting at the top.
"It's a great feeling to be leading the championship but there are still three races to go," he said.
Tang missed out on standing on the top spot at the weekend with the race wins going to Mardenborough, Steijn Schothorst and Martin Rump. Estonian Rump won the feature race for the New Zealand Motor Cup to emulate his mentor and fellow Estonian Sten Pentus, who won the same trophy two years ago. He headed home Tang and Egor Orudzhev.
"It was very good to get the win in the feature race," said Rump. "Especially after my race on Saturday when I went off the track and went some laps down and finished at the back of the field."
Schothorst made up for a nightmare third round at Highlands Motorsport Park the previous weekend where he was unable to bank any points by wining the Sunday morning race from Kiwi Damon Leitch and Orudzhev.
Winner of race one, Mardenborough, had a fraught start and was swept up by the pack, ending back in 11th but clawed his way back to 10th at the finish. Tang started off third spot and initially dropped back, then closed up on Orudzhev and harried him all the way to the flag.
Mardenborough started the next race from pole and despite two safety car episodes, the Brit controlled the restarts and comfortably won from Tang and Orudzhev.
The TRS championship heads to Manfeild next weekend for the New Zealand Grand Prix.
Ryan Tveter took up fulltime racing only last year. Photo / Bruce Jenkins
Each year the annual Toyota Racing Series throws up a driver who hasn't followed the normal path to wings-and-slicks racing.
Last year it was Brit Jann Mardenborough who won the Nissan Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo gaming competition (beating 116,000 others), which gave him the opportunity to attend the GT Academy.
Being the best driver on a real track gained him a season of British GT racing in 2012 and last year he raced just about everything and nabbed a third place at the Le Mans 24 Hour in the LMP2 class.
There's been much debate about video games and their relationship with the actual activity of racing on track.
Sure, a Formula One simulator is about as close to the real thing as you can get, but they cost more than an actual F1 car and are definitely not a video game.
This year's TRS championship has thrown up another anathema to the generally regarded natural progress of karting, Formula Ford and then junior formula, like the TRS, before stepping up to drives like GP3 and GP2.
American Ryan Tveter is this year's odd man out. He's only been in a kart on his birthday and took up fulltime racing last year.
What does appear to be increasingly apparent is that racing digitally is a good foundation for doing it for real.
The 19-year-old has been a passionate follower of motorsport since he can remember and has spent many hours engaging with simulated racing. Quite possibly this is the new trend in driver development, especially now that motorsport is dependent on computer data. "I've only raced a kart on my 11th and 13th birthdays," said Tveter.
"I raced three times in 2011 and did a partial season in Star Mazda the next year.
"My parents said my education was a priority and I think that's helped a lot.
"I've always been passionate about the sport and studied it a lot, especially Formula One.
"To me it's about what you can learn and how quickly you can learn it and apply it in the car.
"It's all about the data from the car now and how you learn and interpret it. It all came together pretty quickly for me and I was able to progress quickly. The data is always there and you can't sugarcoat it. You have to be honest, keep learning and work hard."
The Oyster Bay, NY resident has just signed a deal with Josef Kaufman Racing to campaign the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup this year after impressing the team in his first full season of any form of motorsport in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup.
Being able to spend five weeks contesting 15 races in New Zealand is like an intense training camp for the young man.
"It's the perfect place to get a really good workout before I go to Europe for this year's season," said Tveter. His form after three rounds and nine races so far indicates the American has come to grips with the TRS car and sits just inside the top 10 and has already notched his first podium finish - in any form of motorsport with a third place at Highlands Motorsport Park.
"That was an amazing result but I've made a few mistakes that have cost me valuable points.
"There have been a few races that haven't really gone my way but I'm relatively happy I'm in the top 10."
Round four of the TRS is this weekend at Hampton Downs with one race today and two tomorrow.
Birthday boy Michael Lyons (Lola T400) has extended his MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival series winning streak with another lights-to-flag victory at the second New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meeting at Hampton Downs today. But celebrations are on hold until tomorrow night.
"Yes," said the young British driver who turned 23 day today."While it's great to be able to win a race on your birthday I won't be doing much partying tonight. I've got two more races to try and win tomorrow!"
Series young gun Lyons, who won all three races and lowered his own outright track lap record at the first of two NZ Festival meetings at Hampton Downs last weekend, claimed pole for today's race with the only sub one minute (59.585) qualifying lap and won the 8-lap race from the turbocharged 1985 Ferrari F1 car of special event and MSC F5000 series guest Guido Belgiorno-Nettis.
Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) was the best of the local MSC series drivers in third place with Tony Richards (Lola T332) fourth on his category return and Lyons' father Frank (Gurney-Eagle FA74) fifth.
After two storming 'through-the-field' drives at the first NZ Festival meeting last weekend Auckland driver Clark Proctor (March 75A) was again on form this weekend, joining Michael Lyons on the front row of the grid. However after running a comfortable second to Lyons early on he was a late retirement when his detected something not quite right in his car's driveline.
"I picked up a bit of a vibration and decided it was safer to pit rather than push on and potentially do something that might take us out of the weekend again," he said.
After a best placing of sixth at the first NZ Festival of Motor Racing (which this year celebrated the Ferrari marque) Sydney businessman/racer Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (Ferrari 156/85T F1) showed the benefit of track familiarity today, qualifying fourth before spending the first two laps battling for third with Andrew Higgins and the last two closing in on Michael Lyons after Clark Proctor pitted.
"The Formula 5000s have so much torque it is hard to stay with them out of the corners but my car was better from the big sweeper onto the start/finish straight and at the end of the straight into Turn 1,
For his part Andrew Higgins said he enjoyed the unique opportunity of dicing with a genuine Formula 1 Ferrari but that in the end it came down to horsepower.
"That thing is just so fast in a straight line - and so it should be - from the hairpin to the end of the start.finish straight it is just gone!" he said.
With a three-lap yellow flag period bunching up the field the margins between cars remained close with plenty of action through the 18-strong field.
Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and Calven Bonney (Begg 018) enjoyed a particularly spirited dice as they disputed sixth place with Bonney, back in his car after a comprehensive rebuild which took over 18 months, positively beaming when he got back to the pits.
"It's definitely good to be back and I'm doing better than I thought I would, "he said..
McRae GM1 driver Alastair Russell was another driver in a positive frame of mind, despite having to start from the back row of the grid after failing to post a qualifying time.
Russell spent the race stalking and finally getting the better of fellow McRae GM1 driver Peter Burson and said that - hopefully - he has sorted the oil foaming and pressure issues, that he has been struggling with over the past two seasons.
Disappointed not to get to the flag, meanwhile, was Brett Willis (Lola T330), who had to pull off the track on the last lap with a fuel starvation issue.
Finally, in the MSC F5000 series' new 'battle-of-the-brothers' Christchurch-based Tony Richards (Lola T332) finished fourth his Auckland-based sibling Glenn (Lola T4000) tenth.
The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney's Specialized Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide.
2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
1. Michael Lyons (Lola T332) 59.585
2. Clark Proctor (March 73A) 1.00.022
3. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.00.810
4. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (Ferrari 156/85T F1)1.01.234
5. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.01.442
6. Tony Richards (Lola T332) 1.01.690
7. Frank Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 1.01.952
8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.02.505
9. Calven Bonney (Begg 018) 1.03.091
10. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.03.376
11. David Banks (Talon MR1) 1.03.498
12. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.05.035
13. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.08.657
14. Greg Thornton (March 75A) 1.11.899
15. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 1.12.409
16. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 1.25.962)
17. Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) no time
18. Brett Willis (Lola T330) no time
Race 1 (Sat) 8 laps
1. Michael Lyons 1.00.024
2. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis +1086
3, Andrew Higgins +7.896
4. Tony Richards +12.052
5. Frank Lyons +12.535
6. Aaron Burson +18.580
7. Calven Bonney +19.142
8. David Banks +20.971
9. Sefton Gibb +24.156
10. Glenn Richards +27.843
11. Alastair Russell +31.053
12. Peter Burson +31.054
13. Warwick Mortimer +38.669
14. Brett Willis + 1 lap
dnf Clark Proctor, Judy Lyons, Steve Ross, Greg Thornton
NZ buyers warned famous marque's cut in car production will make it harder to get one
Ferrari sales will be more exclusive in New Zealand
'Seeing a record 141 cars from various eras on the track at the same time last weekend was great.'A new version of the Ferrari California is tipped to be the marque's first turbocharged road car since 1987.
Want a Ferrari? Queue here ...
If you want to buy a new Ferrari, you're going to have to prove you're a red-blooded fan of the prancing stallion.
That's the message from Continental Car Services, the Maranello marque's distributor in New Zealand.
It follows Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo's announcement last year that the company will reduce production of road cars in a move to make the brand more exclusive.
Continental divisional manager Mark Bycroft explained what this means for would-be Ferrari buyers in New Zealand.
"Ferrari is probably the only carmaker in the world actively reducing its production," he said.
"Ferrari will become more exclusive, not only in New Zealand, but around the world. With the exception of dealer demonstrators, every new Ferrari model sold in New Zealand will be to customer order."
Ferrari is still in demand in New Zealand, with the mid-range 458 leading the charge in sales.
"Since its launch in 2010, the 458 Italia has been our best-selling product, followed by the entry-level California tourer," Bycroft said. "With a new California due out this year, it is a very exciting time for the brand."
Reported to have a turbocharged 3.8-litre V8, similar to Maserati's new Quattroporte, the new California could be the first turbocharged Ferrari road car since the legendary F40 of 1987.
The Ferrari-themed NZ Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs Raceway is proving a great success. "The Ferrari festival has seen a massive response from both New Zealand Ferrari owners and fans." Bycroft said.
"Seeing a record 141 cars from various eras on the track at the same time last weekend was great."
The festival runs again today and tomorrow. It features three Formula One cars and the ex-Ken Wharton 750 Monza Sports racing car alongside models from all eras.
Ferrari fans are treated to a rare sight at Hampton Downs
A display of the limited production run hypercars including an F40, F50 and Enzo was a highlight of the festival. Pictures / Ben Selby
Lovers of all things Ferrari converged on Hampton Downs Raceway over the weekend for a NZ Festival of Motor Racing dedicated to their favourite machines.
The celebration drew a large crowd, with tifosi - as Ferrari fans style themselves - dressed from head to toe in Maranello merchandise and memorabilia.
"Every year we alternate between celebrating a famous driver or a particular marque," said chairman Jim Barclay. "We started with Bruce McLaren, then Chris Amon and BMW Motorsport. Last year was Denny Hulme, so this year we decided to celebrate Ferrari."
The big attraction was three Ferrari Formula One cars. Two 156/85s from the 1985 season, driven by Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson, paid tribute to one of the most memorable eras of Formula One.
"The 1985 Formula One season is widely considered by the F1 community to be one of the best and most exciting of all time and to have two of the most iconic cars from that era of Formula One at a NZ track, and at our event, is obviously very exciting," said Barclay.
The two turbocharged V6 cars from Australia, owned by Guido-Belgiorno-Nettis, were accompanied by an ex-Gerhard Berger 1994 412T.
"Having a V12 Formula 1 Ferrari screaming round Hampton Downs is really exciting for Kiwi Ferrari fans."
Both cars performed demonstration runs and the 156/85 competed in the F5000 class against Clark Proctor's March 73A and the Steve Ross McRae GM1.
A display of the limited production run 288 GTO, F40, F50 and Enzo hypercars was another highlight. A Kiwi-built replica of the rare 250 GTO completed the five-car line-up, each of which was driven around the track.
"Apart from the newest LaFerrari, which has only just been made, the representation of all five flagship cars is something you would not see in many places," said Barclay.
Thanks to the New Zealand Ferrari Owners Club, a record 141 Ferraris, covering every era, attended the first weekend of the festival, smashing the previous club record of 76. They ranged from a 1954 250 GT Europa, to the newest production F12 Berlinetta.
As a former Ferrari Formula One driver, New Zealander Chris Amon made an appearance for the parade of Ferrari road cars.
The impressive convoy was led by a pre-war Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza.
British driver Michael Lyons completed a winning trifecta in the F5000 Tasman Revival series class in his Viceroy Lola T400, while the BMW open and Muscle car classes made for great racing. Two Nascar Nextel Cup stock cars also made an appearance.
The festival will run for a second weekend from January 24-26.
Ferrari Festival - Weekend Two another thriller...
Weekend two of the 2014 New Zealand festival of Motor Racing promises to be as good as the first, with several new classes running this weekend to compliment the best of the first weekend’s categories.
New classes for the weekend are the Historic Formula Libre and the Formula Junior/Formula Three classes, along with the ever popular BMW E30 series.
The Historic Formula Libre boasts one of the biggest entries for a Libre event in years in New Zealand, with Ken Smith heading the 18 car entry in his Formula Atlantic Swift. Three other examples of the iconic DB4 Swifts are down to run – with Andy Higgins, Lyall Zohs and David Heron behind the wheels. Martin Lucas’ 1982 Ralt RT4, another iconic racer from the period, is another Atlantic runner.
No fewer than three CanAm cars are in the field, including Roger Williams fearsome McLaren M8E/F (pictured), Paul Halford’s McLaren M1A/B and Warwick Mortimer in his M8 E/F. Three Formula Holdens will also run, as will the unique 1995 RFX, and F5000 driver Greg Thornton in the one-of-a kind ex-Tony Trimmer Titan MK10 BDA powered Atlantic machine.
New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing Chairman Jim Barclay gets behind the wheel in the combined Formula Junior and Formula Three class, pedalling his lovely red Gemini MK3A once again, and look out for F Junior regulars John Holmes (Lotus 18) and Roger Herrick (Lola Mk2). John Rapley is another notable runner in the ex-Denny Hulme Brabham BT2/6.
The Historic Muscle cars are back for more, as are the Formula 5000 cars in the final weekend of their festival mini-series, and they will be joined once more by intrepid Ferrari pilot Guido Belgiorno Nettis in the fabulous turbocharged Ferrari 156/85 Formula One machine. The F1 demonstration runs, which proved such a huge hit on the first weekend, are on again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Richard Carter driving the other Ferrari 156/85 and Robert Borrius Brock joining the fun on Saturday and Sunday aboard his breathtaking ex Gerhard Berger 412T V12 car from 1994.
Watch out also for the historic sports sedans field which will feature the return to the race tracks of the iconic Sidchrome Mustang, newly restored and a late entry to run with the Addis Charger and several other ‘big name’ sedans making rare appearances to the track.
The Festival once again celebrates the Ferrari mark, with around 85 cars expected this weekend and the Supercar paddock being joined by the gorgeous ex ‘works’ 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza sports racing car.
This Ferrari Monza was one of two Monzas racing in New Zealand in 1957. It was brought to New Zealand by British driver Ken Wharton to race at the NZIGP meeting held at Ardmore in January 1957. It was said the car had been driven by ‘works’ driver Eugenio Castelotti in the tragic 1955 Le Mans 24 Hour race and driven by to win at Rouen in France, and to third places at Targa Florio in Sicily and the Swedish GP. Sadly, Ken Wharton was killed when driving the car in a sports car race at Ardmore in 1957.
Aucklander Ken Harris purchased the wrecked car in 1957 and rebuilt it to race condition. He finished third in the first Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy race held at Ardmore in January 1958, and first in the sports car race held that year at the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting. In 1959 Harris won the Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy at Ardmore and finished 12th in the 1959 NZIGP.
Fellow Aucklander Bill Thomasen purchased the Monza in late 1959 and raced it throughout 1960 before he sold it to John Riley in 1961. Riley fitted a Chevrolet Corvette 4600cc V8 engine when the 2999cc 260hp four-cylinder Ferrari engine blew up. By now the six-year old car was uncompetitive but Riley did score a win in a sports car race at the 1963 Levin International meeting. He also finished second in both the 1963 Beach Racing championship held at Muriwai and a race meeting at Pukekohe.
A number of other people owned the car after John Riley; Sir Leonard Southward, of the Southward Car Museum, purchased the car in the later 1960s from an owner in the South Island. Len had the Corvette engine removed and the car was on display in an unrestored condition in the Museum until a complete restoration was undertaken in the mid-2000s.
Tickets for each day and for the weekend are available on the Hampton Downs gate and there will once again be a Show and Shine where you can bring your pride and joy and enter the competition, and the infield as the driver, for just $20.
Check out the video to see how weekend one went...
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It’s not every day you see 140 Ferraris of every type and from every era brought together on the grid of a race track and it’s even more sensational if the unusual gathering takes place almost a pole apart from the country where the cars were built, in other words in New Zealand.
The gathering took place last weekend as part of the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing, at the Hampton’s Down circuit. The Ferraris set a record for the largest gathering in the land of the long white cloud: from the Enzo to the F40, three Formula 1 cars, an F50, as well as cars from the current range, it all made for a great show on the main straight of the track, which is around 60 kilometres to the south of Auckland.
The event confirms the great popularity of the Prancing Horse in New Zealand and was organised in collaboration with the local Ferrari Owners Club. Thousands of spectators were thrilled by the spectacle, which is to be repeated next weekend.
LYONS COMPLETES WINNING MSC F5000 SERIES TRIFECTA AT HAMPTON DOWNS
Visiting British driver Michael Lyons (Lola T400) completed a winning trifecta of the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races on the second day of competition at the first New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs today (Sunday Jan 19).
In the continued absence of veteran Kiwi ace Ken Smith (Lola T332) who blew an engine while leading Saturday's 8-lap encounter, 23-year-old second-generation racer Lyons ran away with both Sunday races, underlining his superiority by lowering his own outright track record from the 59.840 he set in 2012 to the 59.483 he set in the eight lap race in the morning.
In that race Lyons lead Kiwi counterpart Andrew Higgins (the pair in almost identically liveried 'Viceroy' cars) from start to finish, crossing the line just over five-and-a-half seconds in front with defending series champion Steve Ross in his newly-liveried (now blue) 'Quicksilver' McRae GM1 third and 2012/13 series race winner Clark Proctor (March 73A) making it from the back of the grid (after crown wheel and gearbox problems meant he didn't start Saturday's race) to fourth.
Like Saturday's race Sunday morning's one had to be re-started, in this case after just the one lap thanks to a coming together between Michael Lyons' father Frank (Gurney-Eagle FA74) and Grant Martin (Talon MR1A) as the field streamed into the first corner. Lyons was able to continue but Martin couldn't (damaged rims) and the race was red flagged and re-started.
Class A (for older cars) standout Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8B) again ran third early on before eventually being caught and passed by both Steve Ross and eventually, Clark Proctor. Brett Willis (Lola T330) again ended up best of the mid-field battle-pack in sixth place, ahead of Ian Clements and Frank Lyons, however another coming together saw both Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and UK visitor Greg Thornton (March 75A) out of the race.
In the 15-lap feature final Michael Lyons was able to further stretch his advantage though this time Clark Proctor made it all the way to second place from P14 (out of 16) on the grid with Steve Ross third and Andrew Higgins slipping back to fourth by the time the flag came out.
Ross went back several places after a half-spin at Turn 1 but was able to gather it up and work his way forward again before the chequered flag was unfurled.
There was disappointment for Michael Whatley, however, the visiting British veteran slowed and eventually stopped as his engine lost power. Brett Willis and Sefton Gibb also failed to finish, the former thanks to a broken throttle linkage, the later a battery issue.
The weekend's races were the first of a total of six MSC series races which will be contested at Hampton Downs this season with another three at the second New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meeting celebrating Ferrari next weekend.
.The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney's Specialized Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide.
2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Qualifying 1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 59.445 2. Michael Lyons (Lola T400) 59.514 3. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.00.685 4. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.00.844 5. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (Ferrari 156 85T V6 F1) 1.02.063 6. Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) 1.02.661 7. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.02.763 8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.03.245 9. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.03.245 10.Greg Thornton (March 75A-1) 1.04.039 11. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 1.04.117 12. Frank Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74-01) 1.04.595 13. Grant Martin (Talon MR1A) 1.05.173 14. Calven Bonney (Begg 018) 1.05.538 15. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.06.441 16. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.07.334 17. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.10.490 18. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 1.27.115 19. Clark Proctor (March 73A) (no time)
Race 1 (Sat 8 laps) 1. Michael Lyons 8.44.887 2. Andrew Higgins +1.793 3. Michael Whatley +6.652 4. Brett Willis +7.167 5. Ian Clements +7.285 6. Steve Ross +9.273 7. Frank Lyons +11.795 8. Aaron Burson +12.016 9. Sefton Gibb +13.151 10. Greg Thornton +14.339 11. Grant Martin +17.721 12. Calven Bonney +20.263 13. Glenn Richards +21.881 14. Peter Burson +22.839 15. Judy Lyons +1 lap 16. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis + 2 laps 17. David Banks + 7 laps dnf. Ken Smith, dns Clark Proctor
Race 2 (Sun 8 laps) 1. Michael Lyons 8.07.893 2. Andrew Higgins +5.675 3. Steve Ross +10.474 4. Clark Proctor +10.916 5. Mike Whatley +18.334 6. Brett Willis +24.704 7. Ian Clements +26.119 8. Frank Lyons +40.501 9. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis +40.679 10. Calven Bonney +40.838 11. Sefton Gibb +57.070 12. Glenn Richards +59.794 13. Peter Burson +60.392 14. Judy Lyons + 2 laps dnf. Greg Thornton, Aaron Burson, Warwick Mortimer dns Grant Martin New lap record: Michael Lyons 59.483
Race 3 (Sun 15 laps) 1. Michael Lyons 15.18.332 2. Clark Proctor +12.420 3. Steve Ross +15.264 4. Andrew Higgins +19.420 5. Greg Thornton +44.199 6. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis +47.875 7. Ian Clements +49.919 8. Frank Lyons + 1 lap 9. Glenn Richards + 1 lap 10. Peter Burson +1 lap 11. Calven Bonney +2 laps dnf Brett Willis, Warwick Mortimer, Michael Whatley, Sefton Gibb, Judy Lyons
The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing organisers are rubbing their respective hands in glee this weekend as the Ferrari Festival revs up for the first of two back-to-back weekends of red fever gets underway.
This weekend at Hampton Downs gets the Ferrari treatment, which is repeated next weekend, January 24-26, so if fans of the great Italian manufacturer and the New Zealand 'tifosi' can't get along this weekend they have another a chance in seven days time.
To really wet the Ferrari fan's appetites, two of the most recognised Formula One cars of the mid-1980s will be at the track. The F156/85s, formerly driven by the late Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson, were the bellowing behemoths of a bygone era pumping out 750kW-plus of barely controllable power.
"The 1985 Formula One season is widely considered by the F1 community to be one of the best and most exciting of all time," said Festival chairman Jim Barclay.
"It is the season that saw new names in Formula One really emerge - Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell were just two of the up and coming stars and the likes of Alain Prost, Nikki Lauda and Keke Rosberg were still out there winning.
"To have two of the most iconic cars from that era of Formula One set to run at a New Zealand track, and at our event, is obviously very exciting and something we and the fans will look forward to hugely."
The cars' (chassis 079 and 082) owner Belgiorno-Nettis has owned both cars for some time and they get regular track workouts rather than sitting in some mausoleum collecting dust. He bought his first 156/85 in 1995, which was used in nine races. It was raced as number 27 when Alboreto drove it and as number 28 when Johansson drove it.
In 2006 he bought his second one and it was a new car in 1985 that Johansson drove in practice for the Belgian GP and at the Canadian and US Grand Prix in Detroit.
Also at the Festival is the 1994 ex-Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi 412T1. This beast has a 3.5 litre V12 normally aspirated engine, and is regarded as one of the best sounding Formula One cars of all time, though perhaps not one of the most outright successful from the Italian manufacturer.
"What I'm looking forward to as a motor racing fan is being able to see and hear the last of what I reckon the real F1 cars," said Festival organiser Richard Gee. "The 412T1 had 3.5-litre V12 engine that sounded magnificent and I can't wait to hear it again."
If you think that's not enough to entice you along to the Festival, the ex-works 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza sports racing car will be on show at the second weekend of the Ferrari Festival. This Monza was one of two Monzas racing in New Zealand in 1957. It was said the car had been driven by works driver Eugenio Castelotti in the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hour race and won at Rouen in France and a third places at Targa Florio and the Swedish GP. Sadly, Ken Wharton, who bought the car to New Zealand, was killed when driving the car in a sports car race at Ardmore in 1957.
Ken Harris purchased the wrecked car in 1957 and rebuilt it to race condition and in 1961 John Riley got hold of the car and fitted a Chev Corvette 4.600-litre to it after the four-cylinder Ferrari engine blew up. Sir Leonard Southward, of the Southward Car Museum, purchased the car in the later 1960s had the Corvette engine removed and the car was on display in an unrestored condition in the Museum until a complete restoration was undertaken in the mid-2000s.
New Zealand's largest ever single gathering of Ferrari road and race cars is all set to wow fans and enthusiasts alike when more than 140 examples of one of motoring's most sought-after brands and the Festival organisers a hoping to set a record for the number of Ferraris gathered in one place.
The New Zealand Festival of motor Racing is the country's biggest historic motorsports event and 2014 is its fifth running, A huge grid of Formula 5000 cars, Historic Muscle Cars, historic Formula Ford, Classic Trials, BMWs and classic saloons will keep all manner of fans happy.
YOUNG GUN BACK TO GIVE KIWI SUPER-VET SOME COMPETITION AT HAMPTON DOWNS THIS WEEKEND
Kiwi Super-vet Ken Smith (Lola T332) showed a stunning turn of speed to dominate the opening round of the 2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Manfeild late last year. But the evergreen 72-year-old will have his work cut out to repeat the feat at the second and third rounds this and next weekend at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs.
The reason is the return, after a season's absence, of young UK gun Michael Lyons (Lola T400).
The last time Lyons was here (for three rounds of the 2011/12 MSC series) the 23-year-old second-generation racer from Falsted in Essex set a new outright circuit lap record (59.840) as he completed a rare clean sweep of the (six) MSC F5000 races at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings. And he returns on a high after multiple wins in the 2013 FIA Historic Formula 1 championship and finishing sixth in class in the International GT Open European sportscar series behind the wheel of a semi-works Ferrari 458.
"Michael will be the one to beat, that's for sure," admitted Smith this week. "He's very quick and he's got a lot of experience for his age. I rate him very highly."
With his father Frank (Eagle FA74), mother Judy (Lola T332) and fellow UK Historic Racing series regulars Mike Whatley (Surtees TS8B) and Greg Thornton (March 75A) Michael Lyons will be one of four MSC visitors to take on top locals Smith, Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) and Clark Proctor (March 73A) from Auckland and defending and now two-time series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin.
Lyons Jnr is not the only member of the visiting UK contingent with serious recent Northern Hemisphere historic racing credentials either. Greg Thornton is the current FIA Masters Formula 1 Champion in the Post-1978 class!
It's three-time former series champion Smith who heads into the Hampton Downs double-header with the lead in the series points standings however, with fellow Manfeild podium finishers Andrew Higgins and Roger Williams (Lola T332) second and third respectively.
Neither Steve Ross nor Clark Proctor were at that meeting, though, and Smith says both also have the ability to take the battle to young gun Lyons this and next weekend, making for what could well be a four-car battle for supremacy - and a new outright track lap record which Smith says could well end up in the high 57/low 58 second bracket.
There will be at least 20 Formula 5000 cars on the grid at each event over the next two weeks which see the return to the MSC series of former Truck racer Calven Bonney in the ex Jim Murdoch Begg 018 and the debut in the Lola T400 initially driven by former Mini and Shellsport ace Reg Cook of car owner Glenn Richards.
Joining Richards on the grid will be his Christchurch-based brother, Tony Richards, and fellow Lola drivers Ian Clements from Christchurch, Sefton Gibb from Napier and Russell Greer from Blenheim (all Lola T332) and Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Rotorua.
Lola will be the best represented marque with 10 cars entered with McRae (Steve Ross, father and son Peter & Aaron Burson, and Alastair Russell in their GM1s) next with four followed by Surtees (Mike Whatley and local man Warwick Mortimer) and March (Greg Thornton and local man Clark Proctor) on two and the New Zealand-made Begg (Calven Bonney) and the US-made Talon (David Banks from Auckland) and Eagle (Frank Lyons) one each.
This year Ferrari is the featured marque at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings with more than 130 examples - including three Formula 1 cars. The trio will be demonstrated on both days and though he hasn't - so far - been asked, Ken Smith says he'd be happy to put one through its paces.
"Nobody's said anything about it so far," says Smith, the original ultimate lap record holder at the track,"but yes, if they were handing out rides it would be nice to have a steer."
There will be three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at each New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing rounds at Hampton Downs with qualifying sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the first race on Saturday afternoon and two more races on Sunday, one in the morning and the weekend feature in the afternoon.
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A record gathering of Ferrari race and road cars are set to headline the latest edition of the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs.
Staged on consecutive weekends from January 17-19 and January 24-26, up to 130 exotic machines will almost double the previous record for New Zealand.
Up to three F1 Ferraris are confirmed along with several over racing examples from the Maranello marque with the majority drawn from New Zealand-owned machines and from the Ferrari Owners Club of NZ.
A spread of models ranges from the 250 GTO, 288 GTO and the celebrated F40 and F50 versions along with the Enzo supercar.
Making an appearance on the second weekend will be a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza from the Southward Car Museum.
Two 1500bhp 1985 F1 Ferraris will be flown from Australia and will mark the first time single-seater Ferraris have competed locally since the Tasman series days when Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon took on the best the world had to offer.
Paul Halford’s 1962 Ferrari 250GT
Another rare racer on show will be a 308 GTB Challenge car making the trip from the United Kingdom in the hands of colourful motorsport personality and racer Frank Lyons.
The fifth annual edition of New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing has grown into one of the country’s most significant motorsport events.
A huge grid of Formula 5000 cars, Historic Muscle Cars, historic Formula Ford, Classic Trials, BMWs and classic saloons are also on the program.
Wanganui's Richard Dibben (Honda CRF450 No1), followed by fellow Wanganui rider Hayden Sherman, leads the Super Moto class after the second round of the Suzuki Series at Manfeild on Sunday. PHOTOS/ANDY McGECHAN, BIKESPORTNZ.COM
Canterbury's Dennis Charlett is back where he feels he belongs, on top of the Suzuki Series Formula One class standings.
The 2012 defending champion found himself third overall after the first round at Hampton Downs a week ago, but after a first and third placing at Manfeild's round two on Sunday he is now on top of the rankings.
In the other classes, Wanganui's Jayden Carrick is now off the pace, sitting fifth in the Formula 2 (600cc) series after Manukau's Toby Summers took his Yamaha to a first and second placing to extend his series lead, while Auckland rising star Daniel Mettam had a great weekend to take over second spot.
However, Summers could not dominate the Super Moto class. Wanganui's Richard Dibben, the 2012 champion, left him behind to battle with British visitor Malachi Mitchell-Thomas for the second-place crumbs in the first race, with Summers hitting the tarmac and getting black-flagged because he did not return to the pits after his spill.
Dibben also won the second race, beating Summers and Mitchell-Thomas respectively to take a three-point lead into the final round at Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
There were plenty of thrills and spills in the headline Formula 1 races, with the day being categorised as delightful or disastrous, depending on your point of view.
Hamilton's Nick Cole had been leading the series on his Kawasaki, but suffered engine troubles and had to use a back-up bike, finishing sixth and fifth in his two races to drop behind Charlett by three points in the standings.
Australian Linden Magee (BMW 1000RR) crashed spectacularly soon after the start of the opening F1 race, which forced proceedings to be stopped.
He was not seriously injured but his bike was a mess.
Wellington Suzuki rider Sloan Frost, who had been second overall on the table, crashed just a handful of laps after the restart.
The casualties kept mounting at Feilding. Suzuki ace Craig Shirriffs was forced to give up his lead and pull out of Race One when the bracket holding his brakes in place came loose.
At the beginning of Race Two, Taupo's Scott Moir (Suzuki GSX-R1000) had to withdraw when his bike suffered a malfunction on the start line, which dropped him back to fifth in the standings.
New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki GSX-R1000) could sympathise as he had electrical problems and also pulled out, leaving him seventh in the class standings.
Frost won Race Two from the also-returning Shirriffs, with Charlett third.
But because the Cantabrian Charlett had avoided any dramas it really was his day.
"My Suzuki GSX-R1000 performed brilliantly," he said.
"To win this series for a second year in a row would be great, and I'm not taking anything for granted because there's still a round to go.
"But, regardless of how it all works out for the Suzuki Series, it has still been great in terms for getting myself set up for the national championships [starting January]. I feel like I'm in a good position."
Despite having surrendered his series lead to Charlett, Cole remains optimistic.
"It is still a pretty close competition. I'm just glad that the back-up bike, straight out of the crate from the factory, is a very good machine. Bring it on at Wanganui, I say.
"I have a very good chance of winning the series there, looking at my past results on the Cemetery Circuit, and I'm feeling confident."
But Frost, now 11 points back in third, said he may not race at Wanganui next week.
"There's not a lot of point in me risking myself for a series I can't now win. I've got to think about the nationals coming up.
"It has been a mixed day for me, a DNF and a win. It's frustrating because if you drop one out of six races, you really haven't got a chance."d
Pedro Piquet, the 15-year-old son of triple F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet signs up for the TRS
Pedro Piquet, the youngest son of Brazil’s triple F1 champion Nelson Piquet, has been signed up to contest the 2014 Toyota Racing Series.
The 15-year-old Piquet will move into the defending champion team, M2 Competition, ahead of the season-opening race next month.
He has emerged from the karting ranks and more recently F3 in his homeland and is looking forward to the challenging TRS which has become a vital stepping stone for rising open-wheel stars ahead of their European campaigns.
“My goal for TRS 2014 is to be competitive against the other drivers and gain more experience driving formula cars,” young Piquet said.
“Nowhere else in the world can you do 15 races in five (consecutive) weeks, so the TRS is the best championship for drivers who are looking to further their knowledge and experience,” he said.
Piquet’s older brother Nelson jr, now 28, was at the centre of the infamous ‘crash-gate’ controversy where he was given orders to deliberately crash to help his Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso who went on to win the Singapore F1 Grand Prix in 2008.
He later was to win a defamation case against the Renault F1 team for which he parted company in 2009.
The Auckland-based TRS is expecting another bumper Championship as it celebrates its 10th year.
Nelson Piquet in the Brabham at the Belgium GP in 1983
Series organisers are preparing for an onslaught of young rookie talent as well as several drivers who will return for their second season in the one-make series.
The 2014 championship starts at Teretonga, the southernmost race track in the world, in Invercargill on January 10.
Toyota Racing Series category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the series has earned a strong reputation over 10 years.
“It has taken a consistent well managed approach over the years to firmly establish the series on the radar for young up and coming racing drivers.
“Attracting our second Formula One World Champion father and son (after Damon Hill’s son Josh’s TRS inclusion in 2011-2012) is further proof of the respect this series now enjoys the world over.
The championship uses a single chassis supplied by Tatuus and are powered by a production based 1.8 litre four cylinder Toyota engine.
Russian Daniil Kvyat who raced in the TRS in 2011 as a member of the Red Bull Junior driver programme won the GP3 championship this year.
Kvyat becomes the first TRS graduate to be promoted into F1 with Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team for 2014.
Road-racing season starts with a roar, writes Andy McGechan
Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R1000) is the defending Suzuki Series champion in the premier formula one class and knows he's got his work cut out defending his title this year. Pictures / Andy McGechan
It's official, the Kiwi motorcycle road-racing season is off to a flying start. There was a huge buzz in the air as the popular annual Suzuki Series got under way at the undulating Hampton Downs race circuit near Meremere at the weekend, but there is no time for riders to catch their breath with round two set for Manfeild this coming weekend.
If the handlebar-tangling action at Hampton Downs is any indicator, it is sure to be a sizzling hot summer of racing ahead.
This three-round Suzuki Series threatens to rival the New Zealand Superbike Championships in terms of rider numbers and prestige. This competition is traditionally the first real chance for national championship hopefuls to put to the test all their pre-season fine-tuning, gym training and on-track practice sessions before the nationals proper begin in January.
The third and final round of the Suzuki Series is the legendary Boxing Day public street race on Wanganui's famous Cemetery Circuit.
The four-round national championship series follows immediately afterwards, so the Suzuki Series is the perfect time for national title hopefuls to be finding their pace.
Christchurch's Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R1000) is the defending Suzuki Series champion in the premier formula one class and he knows he has his work cut out again this season, with fellow Suzuki riders Sloan "Choppa" Frost, from Wellington, Taupo's Scott Moir and Te Awamutu's David Hall among those who threaten to take the Suzuki Series' formula one trophy for themselves.
Hamilton's Nick Cole, in particular, and New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald are also contenders in the formula one class.
Feilding's Craig Shirriffs and James Smith of Christchurch are also extremely quick, but these men have opted not to contest the Wanganui street race, making it virtually impossible for them to win the series.
Wellington's Sloan "Choppa" Frost had the most F1 wins last season, but a crash robbed him of outright victory.
Frost celebrated the most formula one wins in the Suzuki Series last season, but was denied outright victory by an unfortunate crash at Hampton Downs.
He is determined not to settle for the overall runner-up spot again this time around.
"I won three of the six formula one races last year but crashed while leading one of the races at Hampton Downs," said the 32-year-old.
"That one DNF last year cost me a lot and I just have to be a little more consistent," said Frost, who finished the day runner-up to Kawasaki ace Cole at Hampton Downs on Saturday.
"But, if I can knock half a second off my times, I think I can win the Suzuki Series."
However, Frost will first have to fend off the threat presented by Cole, who won the day at Hampton Downs with 1-2 results, putting Cole three points ahead of Frost (who managed 3-1 results) as they head to Manfeild, and 11 points ahead of defending champion Charlett (who finished 2-6 on Saturday).
With more than $36,000 in prize money, the Suzuki Series attracts the cream of New Zealand's road-race talent, but also lures a blend of international stars, although Britain's Isle of Man legend Guy Martin (Suzuki GSX-R1000) will arrive to contest only the street races at Wanganui on Boxing Day.
The Australians have arrived in force this season, with Chris Seaton, Craig Trinder, Linden Magee and father and daughter pair Phil and Sophie Lovett leading the charge.
Popular German racer Thomas Kreutz, his friend from Dresden, Steve Mizera, and Britain's Malachi Mitchell-Thomas add European flavour to the mix.
A record number of sidecar entries lined up at Hampton Downs and the spectacle of the F1 sidecar rigs swapping paint will again have the crowd on their feet at Manfeild and, no doubt, on Wanganui's streets too.
Racing at Manfeild this weekend should again be fierce in the F2 600cc, F3 sportbikes, post classics, Bears (non-Japanese bikes), and Super moto classes, with huge entries in all categories.
Mal Mitchell-Thomas (left), Richy Dibben and mechanic Jonny Bagnall will be rivals on the track in the Suzuki Series Super Moto class. Photo/Bevan Conley
Defending Suzuki Series Super Moto champion Richy Dibben has plenty of close mates - but he is keeping his enemies closest.
The Wanganui-born racer has returned from England to defend his title this year after an eight-month stint as a mechanic for the Silicone Engineering Racing Team that sponsored top British rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas.
Dibben and Mitchell-Thomas became bossom buddies flatting together just outside Manchester while the Brit competed in the Super Moto class of the European championship.
"Mal just about had the European championship won, but crashed in the last race in France," Dibben said yesterday.
Mitchell-Thomas and his mechanic Jonny Bagnall are staying with Dibben at his parent's home in Okoia and will compete against Dibben in the Suzuki Series Super Moto class this season for the first time.
The 2013 three-meeting Suzuki Series begins at Hampton Downs this weekend, followed by round two at Manfield a week later and culminating in the legendary Cemetery Circuit street races in Wanganui on Boxing Day.
Mitchell-Thomas and Dibben will be sponsored by the Silicone Engineering Racing Team.
"I didn't have a job to go to when I went to England, but I got in touch with the Silicone team and they hired me as a mechanic. In fact, team manager Paul Iddon raced on the Cemetery Circuit back in the 1970s. I ended up flatting with Mal and toured with him during the European championship," Dibben said.
"Because of the work I'd done for them, Silicone are also sponsoring me in the Suzuki Series this year. I rode a few races when I was over there, but only in events that weren't important to Mal - and, yes, he beat me."
Mitchell-Thomas will certainly be a serious threat to Dibben on the Hampton Downs and Manfield track circuits, but it is yet to be seen how he handles street racing on Boxing Day.
"I haven't really raced on streets before but, since arriving in Wanganui, we have driven the circuit and it looks okay," Mitchell-Thomas said.
The Brit will be riding the purpose-built TM450, an Italian brand especially designed for track racing and a popular machine on the European Super Moto circuit. Dibben will race a CRF450 Honda and is eagerly awaiting round one this weekend.
"There isn't much to do to either of these machines when coming from track racing to streets, just the gearing really," Dibben said.
While the pair have become good mates, there will be no love lost on the track.
And while Dibben knows he will have his hands full holding out his British rival, he will be keeping a watchful eye on fellow Wanganui rider Glenn Haden who finished down the points table last year after crashing out in the first round at Hampton Downs.
Dibben went into the final round of the 2012 Super Moto Series with a narrow 11-point lead after dominant performances in the first two legs at Hampton Downs and Manfield. However, a late charge from Duncan Hart on the Cemetery Circuit made the race for the title go right down to the wire.
While Hart was the dominant one, winning all Motard races on his Yamaha YZF450, Dibben kept in touch finishing just behind on his Honda CRF450 on each occasion.
The consistent placings meant Dibben won the title narrowly from Hart.
Former champ aces first drift event, writes Shane Conza
Gaz Whiter smokes the competition at the opening round of D1NZ at Hampton Downs. Picture / Blake Lewis
Three-time Cody's D1NZ Championship series winner Gary "Gaz" Whiter, started the 2013/14 drifting season last weekend with a flawless victory at Hampton Downs raceway. Fellow veteran and closest rival "Fanga" Dan Woolhouse was campaigning a fresh LS3 engine in his newly painted VZ Commodore.
Unfortunately limited hours driving the new powerplant proved to be Woolhouse's undoing when he made a few minor errors getting familiar with the set-up and handed Whiter the pole position heading into the Top 16.
After qualifying in first place, Whiter proceeded to be a clear crowd favourite, showing how comfortable he is behind the wheel of the Nissan Silvia he has driven throughout most of his D1NZ career.
As Whiter devoured his first two challengers on the way to the day's final, spectators were treated to a formidable challenge from D1NZ rookie, Jodi Verholst.
Verholst came close to knocking last season's championship holder Woolhouse out in his first battle of the day. After taking a questionable line on entry, D1NZ's only female driver showed why she has progressed into the Pro series, forcing the rear wheels of Woolhouse's Commodore to go off track as he pursued Verholst's Milwaukee Toyota Supra.
The judges called a re-run which Woolhouse won.
Verholst later commented she was "pretty chuffed" with her performance.
As the Top 16 filtered down to the Top Four, Whiter was paired with Andrew Redwood. With both drivers opting to power their mid-sized Japanese coupes with LS series small block V8s, this was technically a fair fight. After an aggressive chase, Redwood's Mazda RX7 looked like it might get in the way of Whiter's return to the top of the D1NZ podium. But Whiter continued his faultless journey toward the final battle to go head to head with drifting icon "Mad" Mike Whiddett.
Whiddett and his Red Bull/Speedhunters RX7 endured a hydraulic leak that deemed the Mazda's entire braking system useless during his Top 16 battles. Unable to remedy the problem on site, Whiddett was forced to reduce his speed in to the entry point, giving Whiter a considerable advantage.
This became evident as Whiter led Whiddett into the first finals run.
After demonstrating a near perfect entry, Whiddett was covered in a cloud of smoke the entire chase up until the moment his Mazda's rear wheels left the track on the final corner heading into the back straight. That left him not only with a nil score, but also a detached rear bumper. The second run went much the same for Whiddett, and Whiter claimed the win.
Winning this season's opener is a testament to the Whiter family and the team behind the Tectaloy Nissan Silvia. Considering the car was almost destroyed in what was technically a "backwards entry" into an unforgiving concrete barrier during a Tauranga event last year, the outcome was a fantastic reward for their efforts over the last year.
By Shane Conza
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Last year's Suzuki Series F1 winner Dennis Charlett (15) is back for more in Wanganui on Boxing Day. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The countdown is on for what is being billed as the most competitive Cemetery Circuit motorcycling Boxing Day event Wanganui has seen since the 1970s.
Allan "Flea" Willacy, promoter of the Suzuki Series which culminates with the Wanganui street circuit, said only the Marlborough Series from the '70s could rival this year's Boxing Day event.
"We have one of the biggest and best contingents of top international riders arriving to compete against the cream of both New Zealand and Australia," Willacy said yesterday.
"There's already 30 registered to start on the F1 (Formula 1) grid, including last year's Suzuki Series winner Dennis Charlett and Nick Cole, who won both F1 races here last season. But they will have to contend with top German rider Steve Mizera who is bringing out his BMW. Mizera is a regular on street circuits in his homeland.
"Then there's the father and daughter combination of Phil and Sophie Lovett from Australia. As far as I know it will be the first time a woman has raced F1 at Wanganui and Sophie is no slug.
I wouldn't mind betting there will be a few guys [who] give up after seeing her in action," Willacy said.
Guy Martin will be the star attraction of the Wanganui races. The British closed-road specialist is a truck mechanic by trade, although is better known for his UK television shows and his lead role in the 2011 movie, TT: Closer to the Edge.
With a huge $36,550 available in prize money, the Suzuki Series attracts New Zealand's top motorcycle racers.
The three-round Suzuki Series will be staged at Hampton Downs on Saturday, December 7; Manfeild on Sunday, December 15 and at Wanganui's famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day, where Martin will be racing a Suzuki New Zealand-supplied Suzuki GSXR1000.
The Cemetery Circuit recently made it into the top 10 street circuits in the world, rated by the top European motorcycling magazine.
Although Martin is yet to score an Isle of Man TT win, the outspoken 31-year-old has made the podium on 13 occasions since 2004.
Martin recently made the podium on a GSXR1000 in the prestigious Le Mans 24-hour race.
All eyes will focus on Martin when he takes to the Cemetery Circuit but he will not have it all his own way. Charlett has been training hard through the off-season to be sharp for the Suzuki Series, and this year he will be running Suzuki's traction control.
He plans to go fast from the start but knows he is not the only rider wanting to win.
"I think whoever grids up on a 1000 will be competition, but definitely Craig Shirriffs, Sloan Frost will be on a Suzuki, Nick Cole, Hayden Fitzgerald, all those top runners will be fast."
Hamiltonian Cole dominated both 2012 races at Wanganui on his Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R, and seemed certain to win the prestigious Robert Holden Memorial feature - if it wasn't cancelled due to a heavy downpour. Martin will have his high-speed hands full if he has ideas about crossing the line in front of Cole this year.
"Our goal is to get in sync for the nationals, but because Guy Martin is coming over it would be awesome to show him a few lines around Wanganui. The main thing there is to get a good start, and hopefully it'll be hot, like it has been in the past," Cole said.
The support card is also shaping as a real clash of talent with 20 F1 sidecars booked to start, including last year's winners Adam Unsworth and passenger Stu Dawe. Unsworth and Dawe are former hometown racers now based in Auckland.
Kenny Smith outpaced the rest of the field in a Lola T332 to claim three out of three races. Picture / Fast Company/Lyall Chinnery
Kenny Smith takes over the Manfeild meeting in 56th season, writes Eric Thompson
Super-veteran and racecar king Kenny Smith proved there's a hell of a lot of life left in the old dog yet. Smith began his 56th consecutive season in motor racing over the weekend at the 40th anniversary meet at the Manfeild circuit, where he competed when it was first established.
Smith owned the meeting by setting pole and taking three wins from three and setting a lap record to boot. You think he would have been satisfied with his performance at the opening round of the latest F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, but no.
One of the reasons Smith has had such a highly successful motor sport career is the drive he has to go faster. And at 72 there's no sign he's ready to take the easy road just yet. By setting the lap record he's finally beaten the time lifelong friend and original rival Graeme Lawrence set in 1976.
While chuffed with getting one over his old mate, Smith reckons if and when the conditions are right again, he could go even quicker.
"I said on the night of the Manfeild 40-year anniversary dinner that I could beat the record and now I have," said Smith.
Smith says Lawrence's original F5000 category benchmark of a 1.01.900 was set in his then new Lola T332 at the third Manfeild International meeting (a round of the Peter Stuyvesant Series Smith went on to win) in 1976 and was the benchmark for all classes at the 3.033km Feilding circuit until Simon Wills bettered it with 1.01.457) in a Reynard Formula Holden in 2000.
By recording a 1.01.770 in the second MSC Series race of the weekend on Sunday morning, however, Smith finally bettered Lawrence's long-standing category benchmark and was bullish about his prospects of going even quicker.
"I think there is a minute flat in that car. It was just magic today and the track was nice and grippy this morning. If it had stayed that way we might have been able to do it in the afternoon, but it didn't so that's a job for another day," said Smith.
Although both Smith and Jonny Reid have gone considerably quicker during demo runs (Smith has done a 57 second lap in the Leyton House March Formula 1 car he owned and Reid went under the minute in a demo behind the wheel of A1 Team New Zealand's A1GP car), neither time has been recognised, meaning Wills' ultimate record is safe for now.
Smith and the ex-Danny Ongais' Lola T332, rebuilt and run by a crew headed by Smith's long-time crew chief Barry Miller, was the class of the 13-strong field with Andrew Higgins qualifying second quickest and following his mentor home in each race in his ex-Vel's Parnelli Jones team-owned Lola T400.
Each race followed a broadly similar pattern with Smith getting the jump on Higgins before establishing and maintaining a sizeable gap. Higgins, who at early rounds of the Australian series this year has matched and at times been able to better Smith's race pace, in turn had the edge over third quickest qualifier Ian Clements and his fellow Lola T332 drivers Roger Williams and Russell Greer.
In the first two races Williams got the jump on Clements with the order at the flag Smith, Higgins, Williams, Clements and Brett Willis.
Russell Greer, driving the Lola T332 in which Graeme Lawrence set the original class lap record in 1976, was running with Williams and Clements early in the first race before stopping with gear selection issues while Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) had to work his way from the back row of the grid in the first race after breaking a half-shaft when qualifying.
Gibb then worked his way from the back row of the grid to eighth in the first race, finished seventh in the second, then parlayed a strong start in the 12-lap feature final to cross the line in a weekend-best fourth place behind Smith, Higgins and Roger Williams.
The feature race was the best from a spectator's point of view with Williams, Gibb, Ian Clements and Russell Greer battling for third through seventh places until the final lap when, as Clements tried to find a way past Gibb for fourth, Greer ran into the back of Clements' car at the hairpin as he made a bid for fifth.
That put Clements' car off the track where it stayed, but Greer was able to continue and take the flag half a lap later, albeit back in seventh behind Gibb, Willis and Aaron Burson.
After a break of a month and a half, MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series action will return at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs over consecutive weekends in late January.
Shane van Gisbergen will be showing one lucky winner how to get drifting on Monday at Hampton Downs.
Things can happen pretty quickly in the motoring world - and this wee comp is no exception.
Here it is, your chance to learn how to do the ultimate burnout from the master, V8 Supercar and SuperTourer ace Shane van Gisbergen.
The catch is that it's all happening this Monday, so we'll be picking a winner on Sunday afternoon and the winner will have to get to Hampton Downs on time to have some burnout fun with the Giz.
That's right. In association with the Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship, Driven is giving YOU the chance to get behind the wheel of New Zealand's ultimate burnout machine, the Federal Tyres-backed V8-engined Ford Falcon they call "The Rattla", and learn the basics of the burnout with the drivers who will share the car at Hampton Downs next weekend, Shane Allen and Van Gisbergen.
This season, the two Shanes will be sharing "The Rattla" at all six rounds of the 2013/14 Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship.
For your once-in-a-lifetime chance to say you smoked the Federal bags too, all you have to do is like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DrivenNZ and comment on this photo.
The winner will be messaged on Sunday.
For this article and more by the NZ Herald click here
NASCAR will make its first ever appearance at the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing in 2014 when the ultra-successful 1998 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo of series champ and NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon runs a few demonstration laps over both weekends of the Ferrari Festival on January 17-19 and 24-26.
The car - now owned by Bert Dove - has been displayed at the CRC Speedshow event but this will be the first time it has been run at a public circuit racing event in New Zealand.
By the end of 1998, this car and its driver had staked a claim to a major slice of NASCAR's history books. Gordon opened the year with a very modest 16th place finish in the Daytona 500 but the following week at Rockingham, he battled a poor-handling car to win. He won again at Bristol four weeks later and went on to win a total of 13 races, a modern-era record.
This included victories at Charlotte, Richmond, Sonoma, Pocono, Indianapolis (which provided at the time the largest amount of prize money in auto racing with $1,637,625),Watkins Glen, Michigan, New Hampshire, Daytona, Rockingham, and Atlanta. Gordon won the 1998 championship with a massive 364-point lead over Dale Jarrett.
It is arguable that in the modern era of NASCAR, Gordon's 1998 season is one of the very finest achieved. Compared with Richard Petty's stellar season in 1975, both drivers won a phenomenal 13 races, though such a quantity is unrivalled since.
Comedian will ensure event tickles your funny bone
The Show 'n' Go prize-giving ceremony at Hampton Downs should be a laugh a minute with comedian and Variety ambassador Ewen Gilmour acting as MC.Picture / Supplied
Comedian Ewen Gilmour will be guest MC at the Show 'n' Go car and bike fundraising event for the children's charity Variety at Hampton Downs tomorrow.
Gilmour will be at the GT Radial-sponsored event in the role of presenter and giving out prizes.
Show 'n' Go will offer participants the chance to display their cars, drive controlled laps of the Hampton Downs race track and watch the Thoroughbred and Classic Cars Owners Club compete on the track with all proceeds going to the children's charity.
The event will start at Bellagio Cafe on Plunket Ave, Manukau, at 9.30am where a cruise for registered participants will take place. Then all cars will head out in convoy to Hampton Downs south of Auckland for a Show 'n' Shine at 10am.
The day's activities will run until about 2pm, when Gilmour will hand out the prizes and enjoy some socialising with the public.
Registration is $20 per car including driver and one passenger. Additional passengers are $5 each and motorbikes are $10, which covers bike and rider.
Organisers are asking that people bring cash as there is no Eftpos available at Hampton Downs.
Spectators are welcome to the event and admission for them will be a gold coin donation.
For this article and more by the NZ Herald click here
A Hamilton-based sidecar race team won all four of their modern sidecars category races at Hampton Downs last weekend. And it puts them in good stead for other national championship meets during the next six months.
Driver Aaron Lovell and teammate Dennis (Denny) Simonsen topped the field of more than 20 sidecars, including some of Australia's best. The races were part of the Barry Sheene Oceania Challenge.
Racing a slick new Louis Christen Racing (LCR) bike from Switzerland, Lovell and Simonsen say they have one of the best purpose-built sidecar bikes at their disposal. Each LCR bike is badged a limited edition. Parts are aircraft quality; the bodywork is tough, but light carbon Kevlar. The 225kg machine puts out about 200hp and can reach straight-line speeds of up to 280kmh.
And while the bike itself is top notch, so must be the communication between Lovell and Simonsen. There's no verbal communication via radio with microphones so the men rely on being able to read each other and the track.
And that obviously paid dividends at Labour Weekend. The four wins at Hampton Downs bode well for the rest of the season which includes the Tri Suzuki Series (Hampton Downs December 6 and 7 and Manfeild December 14 and 15), the Boxing Day street race at Wanganui, January 4 and 5 at Christchurch, January 11 and 12 at Timaru, and the Paeroa street race on February 16.
But it is perhaps a huge weekend in March that Lovell and Simonsen are most looking forward to. They'll again be up against top teams from Australasia when they race in Sydney in March.
LP Racing, under which Lovell and Simonsen race, is looking for more sponsors to help carry them through the season. If you're interested in being a sponsor, call Aaron Lovell on 021 325 968.
- Hamilton News
By Danielle Nicholson
For this article and more by the NZ Herald click here
Mathieu Day loved testing NZ's first performance electric bikes
The Stealth Fighter is one of New Zealand's first performance electric bikes. Photo / Gary Richards
Pedalling towards the steep hill, and adrenalin pumping, I twisted the throttle on one of New Zealand's first performance electric bikes, the Stealth Fighter, and shot up the hill with the speed that before now I thought you couldn't achieve on anything short of a full-blown motocross bike.
They're Stealth by name, Stealth by nature, that is until you arrive at the top of the hill to see the curious gathering crowd.
Looking like a cross between mountain bike and a motocross bike, the Stealth performance e-bike will be launched this weekend in three models - the Fighter, Bomber and Hurricane.
Behind the alloy monocoque isn't an engine but a series of lithium-ion batteries powering a silent 3.5-4.5 kilowatt electric motor, which on a lightweight frame makes for a dynamic ride.
Arriving at Manukau's Totara Park mountain bike park and with the entry-level Fighter on a novice-friendly setting of 300 watts, I jumped aboard, hoping not to make a fool of myself and break a bike that had been in the country only three days.
Handling just like a pushbike, the Stealths were light at 34kg for the Fighter, and 53kg for the Bomber and Hurricane, and flexible due to the all-alloy construction and light batteries hidden within the frame.
I twisted the throttle at the insistence of the Stealth team, and the bike shot off at a pace that came as a surprise for a low power setting.
With New Zealand importer David Claridge astride the motocross- styled Hurricane, and the Fighter at full power, we hit the trails.
The excellent hydraulic brakes the Stealths are all equipped with showed their worth, pulling me up fast enough to avoid ploughing into the back of my fellow rider at the bottom of the hill.
After bombing around the tight corners of the park, we turned back to the daunting hill we had just made our way down.
On a normal push bike, I'll admit I'd have stopped halfway up the hill to regain a bit of composure, but not on a Stealth. With the electric motors able to coast us up the hill and with the added input of pedalling, the Fighter flew up the hill almost as quickly as it had descended it.
Testing the Hurricane, I noted immediately that it was by far the most comfortable of the Stealth bikes thanks to its padded seat. With an extra kilowatt over the Fighter's 3.5kw max, the Hurricane's 4.5kw and lack of gears made it by far the easiest bike to get into the mix with.
The Stealth Bomber performance electric bike has a 4.5kw DC electric motor. Photo / Supplied
Last up was the top-of-the-range Bomber, with the full list of optional upgrades from Stealth including bigger shocks and brakes. With the same 4.5kw DC motor as the Hurricane but with a nine-speed sequential gearbox, it's by far the biggest and meanest Stealth bike available.
Sadly, after blasting about for three hours, we finally managed to run the batteries flat, and knowing they would have lasted longer if we had used the KERS-like [kinetic energy] recharge system and pedals, my test of the Stealth bikes came to an end all to soon.
Starting from $13,800 for the Fighter, $15,700 for the Hurricane and $16,500 for the Bomber, the Stealth Bikes are available in a range of colours and are custom-built to order in Melbourne.
Stealth Electric Bikes are launching the range at the Barry Sheene Oceania Challenge at Hampton Downs this weekend and are truly worth a thorough look.
Dan Woolhouse (lead car) will be putting his national title on the line when the D1NZ National Drifting Championship Series kicks off next month. Photo / Supplied
In just under a month, Northland's - and New Zealand's - best drifter will begin to defend his crown as the Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship Series revs into gear.
Whangarei's Dan Woolhouse, aka Fanga Dan, has been tinkering with his new drift machine over the off-season and will be looking forward to the November 16 start date.
Woolhouse will also be looking forward to the second round, which sees drifting return to Whangarei over December 14 and 15.
Before Northlanders get their drift fix though, the series heads to Hampton Downs. After the Hampton Downs round the title chase heads to Whangarei in December, Mount Maunganui in January, Taupo in February and Christchurch in April before returning north for a gala series finale at Pukekohe Park Raceway in May.
Lack of suitable dates means the usual season-opener at Feilding's Manfeild circuit is missing from this year's schedule.
The series roster has a host of internationally known and fan-friendly drivers to continue the large crowds experienced last year.
Last season, Whangarei drift folk hero Woolhouse was caught up in an epic battle for the title with the Auckland-based international "Mad Mike" Whiddett.
Joining Woolhouse on the roster is fellow Whangarei driver, and three-time former series champion, Gary "Gaz" Whiter.
Back for more, too, after a successful toe-in-the-water exercise last year, will be V8 Supercar and Super Tourer ace Shane van Gisbergen.
He will again share the high horsepower Federal Tyre-backed Ford Falcon V8 dubbed "The Rattla" with its owner, Shane Allen from Waiuku, this time at all the series rounds.
This season's Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship kicks off at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park with Pro-Am and D1 Pro practice on Saturday, November 16, with the main competition day on the Sunday.
Greg Murphy and Jack Perkins inherit race win at Hampton Downs. Pic: Andrew Bright
Greg Murphy and co-driver Jack Perkins recorded an unexpected victory in the opening race of the penultimate round of the V8 SuperTourers Championship at Hampton Downs.
With Murphy electing to start the 38-lap race, Perkins drove brilliantly to bring the Mike Pero Mortgages Commodore home ahead of main championship rival Ant Pedersen’s Ford while Shane van Gisbergen claimed third.
The podium reflected the championship positions of the top three with Murphy now extending his lead over Pedersen to 114 points.
While it was the perfect opening to the sixth round of the championship for Murphy, Richard Moore was left to lament what might have been after he seemed set for victory in the Kellands Real Estate Commodore.
Moore and co-driver Tim Slade had been dominant, both able to scoot away from the field during their respective stints.
With just under 10 laps remaining the gearbox failed in the Holden, preventing almost certain victory that was set-up courtesy of Slade’s inspired first stint.
“We had a slow change but we had a buffer,” Moore explained after squeezing out a commanding 10s lead before his gut-wrenching retirement.
“Straight away after I got in the car fourth gear was very noisy and then a few laps later it went completely and then the whole box was destroyed.”
Before Moore was forced to retire, Perkins slipped past Pedersen to claim second spot in a key move as the pair waged a tense battle.
Murphy was gutted for his M3 Racing team-mate Moore after admitting his Commodore had struggled to match the pace of the young gun and proclaimed himself an undeserving winner.
“I’m just disappointed for Richard and Sladey,” Murphy said. “They had the fastest car and were leading by a country mile.”
“We’ve struggled with the car and we clearly didn’t have the pace for the Moore car or Mostert.”
Simon Evans and Jonny Reid were fourth ahead of the third M3 Racing Commodore of Paul Manuell and V8 SuperTourer debutant Nick Percat.
Dan Gaunt and Andrew Waite were sixth in the Tasman Ford ahead of Craig Baird and Matt Lockwood in the United Video Falcon.
Lee Holdsworth produced an inspired drive in the Chesters Commodore, making up many positions before handing the car over to regular driver Tim Edgell inside the top 10 before the latter brought the car home in eighth position.
The #1 Supercheap Auto Commodore was forced into retirement early with Jono Webb bringing the Holden he shares with Scott McLaughlin into the pits in the opening minutes, continuing the horror run of the defending championship-winning team.
The round will be decided from twin 56-lap races tomorrow.
Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen has cut short his brief break from motorsport by confirming his intention to race in the V8SuperTourer Championship this year. Photo / Getty Images.
Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen has cut short his brief break from motorsport by confirming his intention to race in the V8SuperTourer Championship this year.
Van Gisbergen shocked motorsport fans on both sides of the Tasman last month by quitting the Australian V8 Supercars series in which he had driven since the age of 17.
The 23-year-old, regarded as one of the rising stars of the series, left Stone Brothers Racing saying he wanted to have "some fun and do different stuff".
But van Gisbergen did not last long away from the sport and will now race in Corkery Motorsport's Ford Falcon V8ST in the New Zealand-based touring cars championship.
"I have kept an eye on the series in its first year and came along to a couple of the races last year, as well as testing the car a couple of times, and it's a series which really excites me," van Gisbergen said. "There's a close field of competitive drivers in evenly matched cars and I'm looking forward to getting into the mix and hopefully getting some good results."
Van Gisbergen will take on New Zealand's top V8 drivers in the series, which begins at Hampton Downs over the weekend of February 16 and 17, including Greg Murphy, John McIntyre, Craig Baird and Andy Booth.
He also spent many of his early racing years competing against current SuperTourer drivers such as Andrew Waite and Simon Evans in go-karts, and he is looking forward to getting out on the track against some of his old mates.
"I'll be taking no prisoners on the track, though."
V8 SuperTourers managing director Mark Petch was delighted to have a driver of van Gisbergen's calibre join the series.
"It's fantastic to have yet another champion join the V8 SuperTourer Series, as we move forward to official recognition as the country's premier touring car championship," he said. "Shane is really going to put the cat among the pigeons, that's for sure."
The young driver already achieved that late last year, walking away from a lucrative career across the Tasman to pursue other interests. Van Gisbergen dispelled talk he had retired from motorsport and instead said he simply intended to take a break.
"It's been worse because people have put the word retirement out there," he told TV3. "I never said retirement. That means final. I just said I was leaving for a bit. That could be a week, a year, who cares?"
He said he was looking forward to getting back to the basics in the SuperTourers series, rather than get caught up in the politics which plagued his experiences in the Supercars.
"We weren't happy last year," van Gisbergen said. "We had won races the year before and we didn't even really come close last year. And all the changes that were happening for this year just wasn't something to look forward to."
World's superbike aces are fired up to put on exciting displays
Taranaki's Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki), is expected to be among contenders for the F1 title again this season. Pictures / Andy McGechan
The tarmac is set to blister and sizzle again in New Zealand this summer.
Yes, it will surely be another scorcher on at least three of New Zealand's favourite motorcycle road-race circuits starting in December. International superstars will be signing up in even greater numbers this year to race the traditional pre-nationals warm-up competition, the Suzuki Series.
Once called the Suzuki Tri Series, it remains a three-rounder for now, but expectations are high that it will soon expand, such has been the competition's growing popularity since its inception in 2008.
The Suzuki Series is NZ's pre-eminent road-race competition, aside from the national championships proper, with the schedule this season set for Hampton Downs on December 6-7 and Manfeild on December 14-15, the series winding up, as always, with the Cemetery Circuit races on Wanganui streets on Boxing Day.
"The entries are really starting to flow in," says organiser Alan "Flea" Willacy. "We have seen a huge amount of interest from overseas again this year, too, with Englishman Guy Martin entered for Boxing Day, Italian supermotard ace Malachi Mitchell-Thomas arriving for the series, Germany's Thomas Kreutz is returning this year and Australian brothers Craig and Steve Trinder, among others, have indicated their intention to race here.
"I'm particularly excited about Guy Martin. He's a real entertainer. He'll have a Suzuki F1 superbike, generously supplied by Suzuki NZ, and he's sure to be a real crowd favourite.
"What you see is what you get with Guy Martin. He's a straight-talker and a fine racer."
Martin was the central character in the movie Closer To The Edge shown here in 2011, a frank, behind-the-scenes film about racing the legendary Isle of Man circuit.
With the Isle of Man track, Wanganui's Cemetery Circuit was recently named one of the world's top 10 street circuits by Dutch publication Motor Magazine, no doubt a factor in enticing Martin Downunder.
Christchurch's Dennis Charlett (Underground Brown Suzuki GSX-R1000) won the Suzuki Series Formula One class last season and will be among the favourites to win this time, plus other leading Kiwi superbike riders such as New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald, Wellington's Sloan Frost, Hamilton's Nick Cole and Feilding's Craig Shirriffs.
Anyone who goes online - www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz - to buy an "early-bird" ticket to the Cemetery Circuit races will go into a draw to win a Suzuki GSR750 bike.
Endurance racers raring to go for SuperTourers, says Eric Thompson
The three M3 racing cars with Paul Manuell in front of Richard Moore and his car and Greg Murphy's further back.
Round two of the V8 SuperTourers series within a series roars into action this weekend at the north Waikato Hampton Downs circuit.
Round one a few weeks ago saw a number of mechanical issues raise their ugly heads but the teams are convinced the gearbox and related issues have been solved.
The three-round endurance component of the overall Hankook Super Series will see several Australian V8 Supercar drivers return and some will be hot from last weekend's yahoo around Mount Panorama. There were also a number of Kiwi drivers racing in the Bathurst 1000 who will be suiting up to resume battle in the local series.
Earlier in the season, four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy took out the sprint title from local driver Ant Pedersen and Australia-based Tekno Autosport pilot Shane van Gisbergen.
He won the opening endurance round with a series of solid finishes to sit third on the overall series points table behind Pedersen and Murphy, who retained the series lead despite a DNF.
There are a couple of bits of good news for a long-time combatant and supporter of New Zealand V8 racing. Paul Manuell, who's part of M3 Racing with Murphy and Richard Moore, has just re-signed Orix as his car's sponsor.
Orix Leasing and Finance, long-time supporter of Manuell, recently announced their continued backing for the 2014 V8 SuperTourer season.
Manuell will again be driving a Holden Commodore-skinned car prepared by M3 Motorsport, who also prepare the cars of Murphy and Moore. M3 have established themselves as serious championship contenders with all three cars inside the top 10 - Murphy first, Moore in fifth and Manuell ninth.
"Orix remain extremely pleased with the exposure and resultant business benefits we receive from our involvement within the sport and we are delighted to have the opportunity to continue our association with Paul and our family of loyal partners," said Orix New Zealand operations manager Glenn Middleton.
"Orix will continue to deliver our familiar family-focused hospitality product which we consider to be as important as our on-track performances. Hospitality provides us with a unique platform to thank our existing clients throughout New Zealand and also network new opportunities."
The pair have been linked for several years and Orix is one of New Zealand's long-serving sponsors of the sport.
"The relationship has been built up over 12 years and, obviously, I'm grateful for the relationship we have built up," said Manuell. "Orix finds it a good way to network with people in the industry and get exposure for their business.
"They are a fantastic company to deal with and the culture within their corporate environment is also fantastic."
The other good news is Manuell will have a new co-driver for the weekend's racing.
Bathurst 1000 winner Nick Percat will compete in the final two endurance rounds after signing to co-drive alongside Manuell. The 25-year-old Australian will replace John Penny for this weekend's round at Hampton Downs and the Pukekohe 500 in November.
Percat, who won the opening Carrera Cup race at Bathurst, will bring a wealth of experience to the Orix team. Manuell is confident the acquisition of the two-time Australian Formula Ford champion will lift him up the V8 SuperTourers standings.
Percat was Garth Tander's co-driver at last weekend's Bathurst 1000 where they finished fourth.
The first two endurance events consist of one sprint race and two races each 200km in length. The Pukekohe 500 features two 1