2014 Suzuki Series set for big start at Hampton Downs
Saiger and Costello lead quality entry
It doesn't get any more thrilling than top line motorcycle racing and some of the best riders from home and abroad are all set to do battle in the Two Wheel Trophy at Hampton Downs over the weekend of December 6 and 7 - the first round of the 2014 Suzuki Series.
More than 200 thoroughbred racing motorbikes are set to grace the first weekend for New Zealand's top road race series. And there's plenty of international interest in the series, which begins at the North Waikato track then moves on to Manfeild on December 13 and 14 before concluding at the world famous Cemetery Circuit races on the public streets of Wanganui on Boxing Day (December 26).
More international riders than ever before have signed up for the event, promising one of the most competitive and fiercely fought motorcycle race meetings ever at Hampton Downs.
Horst Saiger from Liechenstein is confirmed and will race F1 machinery for the Red Devil Racing team and Kawasaki NZ in the Suzuki Series. He is the two time Swiss Champion, and was third this season in motorcycle racing's World Endurance Championship. He is also the current holder of the Super Stock 1000 lap record at the NW200.
One of the sport’s more colourful characters, he has extensive experience, has ridden the daunting Isle of Man TT course many times and describes himself on his Twitter page as a ‘mechanic, motorcycle racer and beer fan’. He also finished a highly respectable sixth at the recent Macau GP event.
The world's fastest female motorcycle racer is heading to Hampton Downs for the event too. Brit Maria Costello MBE not only held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course at an average speed of 114.73 mph, but she was also the first woman in the history of the Isle of Man motorcycle races to stand on the podium (RLR Motorsports Honda RVF400 – MGP 2005). Her success as a female motorcycle racer and success on the track has attracted attention from the media and the motorsport industry worldwide and she will be a popular addition to the Hampton Downs field.
Further interest from overseas again this year comes in the shape of Supermotard ace Malachi Mitchell-Thomas from Great Britain. Germany's Thomas Kreutz is returning again and this time around brings Steve Mizera as team mate. Australian brothers Craig and Steve Trinder are among many indicating their intentions to race in the series too. Joining them of course will be all New Zealand’s top talents including Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett winner of the Suzuki Series’ Formula One class last season.
They will be joined by the likes of Sloan Frost, Robbie Bugden, Canadian number two Andrew Nelson, Rhys Holmes, Dan Stauffer (Yamaha), Nick Prestige (Ducati), Dion Sellers (BMW) , Steve Bridge (Ducati),Jamie Galway (Triumph), Scott Moir (Honda) and Darren Love.
All the regular popular support classes will return including the F3 Sportbikes, Post Classics,the iconic BEARS and the Ultra Lites.
Hampton Downs early bird tickets are available until Monday 1 December atwww.hdticketing.co.nzand are $10 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.
Film and TV star Guy Martin races a Suzuki GSXR1000 around Wanganui's Cemetery Circuit. Photos / Terry Stevenson
Racers from around the world are all revved up and ready for the 2014 Suzuki Series which kicks off at Hampton Downs on Sunday, December 7.
Spread over three quick-fire rounds at Hampton Downs, Manfeild and Wanganui during December, the Suzuki Series is the richest international motorcycle series in New Zealand.
The big news is film and TV star Guy Martin is returning for another crack at the Cemetery Circuit, for unfinished business. This year the Briton will be racing a more competitive Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 Superbike, and the truck mechanic will be aiming to improve on last year's fifth and sixth placings.
Martin will also race a Manx Norton in the Classic category during his third visit to Wanganui.
Guy Martin drawing the winner of the new Suzuki bike draw in 2013
No less than 15 international riders take the grid from countries including Japan, Liechenstein, Britain, the Isle of Man, and Australia.
With 2013 Suzuki Series champion Nick Cole retired from motorcycle racing, Horst Saiger (Liechenstein) has taken up the challenge on the Red Devil's Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbike.
Saiger has vast experience and has competed at the Isle of Man, the North West 200, and is a current member of the Bollinger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki) in world Endurance racing, finishing second in 2014. Riding a ZX-10R, Saiger finished a creditable sixth at the Macau GP last weekend.
Australian Enduro ace Phil Lovett makes a welcome return, along with his Auckland-based daughter Sophie, both racing Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbikes. Rennie Scaysbrooke makes his second visit across the Tasman to race a Suzuki GSXR750 and GSXR600 at Wanganui.
Fast Australian Linden Magee also makes his second appearance in the series, on the M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR. Magee suffered a high-speed crash at Manfeild last year which put the BMW out of the series.
All of them will have to deal with the local Kiwis before they can claim first prize, but it would be a brave person to pick a winner from the NZ talent pool.
2012 Suzuki Series champ and current NZ Superbike champion Dennis Charlett returns on his Underground Brown Suzuki GSXR1000. The Christchurch racer knows what it takes to win the big races, and titles. Charlett finished second last year.
Sloan 'Choppa' Frost (Wellington) is one of the country's fastest riders but will need greater consistency on his Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 if he wants to improve on his third overall in 2013.
Frost says, "I'm excited to get the Suzuki Series underway. We have been busy getting prepared and I'm excited to be welcoming Bailie Perriton to the team who will be riding a Suzuki NZ GSXR600L2. I'm finally getting back up to speed following surgery on my wrist from an accident at Wanganui last year, so I'd really like to make amends this year!
It's never been easy to win races but the list of riders now that are capable of winning races is longer than I can ever remember!"
Taupo's Scott Moir finished fourth last year on his GSXR1000 and could be just the person to capture his first big bike title. Hayden Fitzgerald was only five points behind Moir in 2013 on his Team RGM Suzuki GSXR1000, and only needs to make a small step up in speed to capture the wins.
No one can ever discount the resurgent Tony Rees of Whakatane, on his well prepared Tony Rees Honda CBR1000RR.
A race winner in the NZ championships, Auckland teenager Jaden Hassan has an outside chance of taking the Suzuki Series, just as he did in the F2 class in 2012.
Sloan Frost leads the charge on his Fujitsu Suzuki Superbike
With a close points system riders cannot afford to suffer a crash or mechanical failure if they want a share of the massive $36,550 series prizemoney.
The F2 600 category promises to be as competitive as ever, with top riders such as Adam Chambers, Daniel Mettam, Alistair and James Hoogenboezem, Rhys Holmes, 15 year old Aaron Hassan and international racer Connor London all looking to cross the line first.
Japanese riders Toshiyuki Arakaki and Akashi Kohno, the UK's Billy Redmayne, plus Australians Aidan Hopkins and Rennie Scaysbrooke round up the international F2 list.
Defending F2 champion Toby Summers returns as favourite on his R&R Power Sports Yamaha R6, and this year will focus on his 600cc effort, not riding in Supermoto.
Italy-based Avalon Biddle will be riding an Ozzy 450 in the F3 class - she was an F2 600 front-runner last year. In one of the greatest match-ups of the Series, Biddle will be pitting her international skills against UK racer Maria Costello MBE, on a KTM690 which she will also ride in the BEARS category. Costello raced at Hampton Downs last month during the Barry Sheene Memorial.
America's Cup Team New Zealand head Grant Dalton is swapping sea spray for hard tarmac as the Aucklander is set to race his Kawasaki ER6 in the F3 class at Wanganui.
Hamilton's Aaron Lovell and new passenger Tracey Bryan (Tauranga) will be anxious to go two better in the title chase than last year's third overall on their Barfoot & Thompson LCR Suzuki. Racing a Boss Engineering Windle F1 sidecar, the Adam Unsworth-Stu Dawe pair from Auckland won last year and know how to get the best out of their aging machine. Both riders are highly competitive and won't give in without a fight.
The support classes are often where the best racing takes place, including Formula 3, BEARS and the popular Post Classics. Classic solo machines and classic sidecars will appear at Wanganui only.
$25 'early-bird' tickets for the Wanganui round are available atwww.cemeterycircuit.co.nzto go in the draw to win a brand new $8,999 Suzuki DR650 SE after the last race - entrants must be present to win. Guy Martin himself will again be making the draw.
2014 Suzuki Series schedule
Round 1: Hampton Downs, Sunday December 7
Round 2: Manfeild, Sunday December 14
Round 3: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, Friday December 26
Auckland driver Clark Proctor (#57 March 73/1A) seen here leading Aaron Burson (#29 McRae GM1) heads a seven-strong Kiwi contingent contesting the opening round of the 2014/15 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series in Melbourne this weekend. Photo / FastCompany,Alex Mitchell
Auckland's Clark Proctor (aka The Metalman) heads a strong Kiwi contingent contesting the opening round of the 2014/15 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival motor racing series at Melbourne's Sandown circuit this weekend.
Clark won races and finished second overall in the 2012/13 MSC series, and after mechanical issues de-railed his 2013/14 campaign the talented all-rounder returns with a freshly rebuilt March 73/1A.
Proctor is one of a group of seven New Zealand-based MSC NZ Tasman Cup Revival Series regulars who will take on a similar number of resident Australian drivers in three MSC series races at the annual Historic meeting.
Joining him in flying the New Zealand flag are former series champions Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin and Ian Clements (Lola T332) from Christchurch, Russell Greer (Lola T332) from Blenheim, 2012/13 series third place-getter David Banks and fellow Talon MR1 driver Grant Martin from Auckland, and Lotus 70 driver David Arrowsmith from Christchurch.
UK-based series' regular Greg Thornton is also back for the full 2014/15 MSC series with the car he debuted at Hampton Downs last season, a rare Ford V6-powered March 75A.
Facing the Kiwi/UK squad is a field of top Australian F5000 category drivers led by Melbourne ace Bryan Sala (Matich A50/51), young gun Tom Tweedie (Chevron B24), and Richard Davison (Lola T332), the father of V8 Supercar drivers Alex and Will.
There will also be considerable interest in the series debut of one of Australia's category originals, four-time Australian Drivers' Championship winner Alfie Costanzo in a McLaren M10B.
Other local drivers in the 21-strong field are Australian category stalwarts Darcy Russell (Lola T330), Robert Harborow (Lola T192), Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) and Chris Hocking (Matich A53), and new faces Peter Brennan (Lola T330) and Geoff Munday (Elfin MR5B.
The Sandown round of the 2014/15 MSC series round is the first of two in Australia, the Kiwi cars being shipped to Sydney later this month for the Historic Sports and Racing Car Association of New South Wales' annual race meeting at the Sydney Motorsport Park over the November 29/30 weekend.
The first two New Zealand rounds of the 14/15 MSC series will then be held over consecutive weekends at the two Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival meetings at Hampton Downs in mid-January.
The final two will then be held over consecutive weekends in early February, the penultimate one at the annual Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna), and the final at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild.
Formula 5000 was New Zealand's premier motor racing category from 1970 to 1975 and the organisers of the Gulf Oil-backed 2015 New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs are eyeing a record line-up of local and overseas-based cars.
Close to 300 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 as many as 60 are expected to line up at the two Festival meetings.
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.
Add four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy, main-game drivers Dale Wood and Jack Perkins, and Pirtek co-drivers Steve Owen, Cameron Waters and Ashley Walsh into the mix and the racing is sure to be doorhandle-to-doorhandle.
Van Gisbergen had a stellar weekend on the Gold Coast, setting pole, winning race one and finishing fifth in race two. The second race of the weekend was the eye-opener.
The Kiwi came flying through the pack from last after receiving a drive-through penalty and is keen to triumph with co-driver Simon Evans.
"We've had debrief about last weekend and I've had a couple of days off, so now it's time to get back into it," said Van Gisbergen. "I won't be the only one who's match-fit, as Tim [Slade] and some of the other Aussies will be on it as well.
"Simon and I had a good result in Taupo last time we raced, and we now have a good points lead. We have to keep building on that for Simon's championship. I just have to keep it clean for him and make sure I help set him up for the rest of the series."
The NZ series is a bit of a change for Van Gisbergen, because he's the co-driver rather than the main man.
"You certainly think a little bit differently not being the main driver, but when you get in the car you still try to do the best you can.
"You still have to be quick because the co-drivers have their own qualifying session as well so you have to be fully on it."
Taking an early series lead is always the best way to start a championship year, and Evans is looking forward to building on his success at Taupo.
"I think it's going to be close," said Evans. "A few of the co-drivers hadn't been to Taupo before, but a lot have been to Hampton Downs.
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"We rolled up to Taupo with everything well prepared and it worked. This weekend some of the other teams have had a bit more time so it'll be a lot closer. The car's good and every time we leave the track we learn something new for the next round."
The pairing of Andre Heimgartner and Morris will be quick, but look to Richard Moore and Slade who'll be out to make amends for a less than successful weekend in Taupo.
Moore is quick at Hampton Downs and got his first race win on the circuit.
"I made a few small mistakes at Taupo and we had a pretty average weekend," said Moore. "I like Hampton Downs and we're eager to get back into it. I'm sure that after Tim's last weekend he'll be keen to get back into a race again.
"I think we should have been on the podium in the races at Taupo and we'll be aiming for the top spot at Hampton Downs."
The Kiwi pairings of Ant Pedersen and Jonny Reid, John McIntyre and Mark Gibson and Shaun Varney and Andrew Waite will have a battle.
Pedersen and Reid probably have the best chance as Pedersen had his first yahoo around Bathurst in a V8 Supercar (with Heimgartner) and Reid has an enviable racecar pedigree.
NZ SuperTourers after round one
1. Shane van Gisbergen - 404
2. Simon Evans - 391
3. Ant Pedersen - 339
4. Andre Heimgartner - 335
5. Jonny Reid - 333
6. Tim Slade - 324
7. Richard Moore - 318
8. Paul Morris - 317
Shane Van Gisbergen is in red-hot form as he heads to this weekend’s Waikato 400 at the TR Group V8 Festival at Hampton Downs, round two of the 2014-15 BNT NZ SuperTourers championship, Nov 1-2.
Van Gisbergen teamed up with his old friend and fellow Aucklander, Simon Evans, to dominate the first round of the championship at Taupo in September, and they start as clear favourites for the second endurance round in Evans’ Holden.
In between the two New Zealand events Van Gisbergen again showed his great speed and car control on Australasia’s main V8 stage, the 1000km race on the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst and the Gold Coast 600 over the weekend - where he achieved a pole position and race win.
At Bathurst he qualified on pole, broke the lap record and was leading near the end – till the final pit-stop, when his Holden stalled and would not restart because of a starter motor failure. After losing three laps, he finished 16th but retained fourth place in the V8 Supercar championship.
“We had a fantastic car at the end, so I’m pretty gutted really,” he said after the race.
And Evans is now one of the top resident Kiwi drivers, as he proved when he made the break that set up the duo’s victory in race one at Taupo, so the pair will be hard to beat.
But Van Gisbergen is not the only young Kiwi to make an impression at Bathurst. Hamilton’s Ant Pedersen and Aucklander Andre Heimgartner, who stand second and third respectively in the New Zealand championship, were on course to finish sixth till they also hit a late setback, a miscalculation by the crew forcing them to stop for extra fuel right at the end.
In the BNT NZ SuperTourers endurance rounds, Pedersen shares his Ford with former A1GP hero Jonny Reid while Heimgartner’s co-driver for his Holden is Aussie veteran Paul Morris, who won Bathurst with Chaz Mostert.
Reigning champion Greg Murphy needs to get back to the top of the podium as he and Aussie Jack Perkins failed to finish the first race at Taupo, their Holden damaged by contact with another car. Murphy and James Courtney, racing for the Holden Racing Team, had finished second in the Sandown 500, the lead-up event for Bathurst, but setbacks in the big race left them 13th at the end.
More Australian V8 Supercar drivers join the fray with Cameron Waters (co-driving with Mitch Cunningham), Steve Owen (Tim Edgell), Tony D’Alberto (Angus Fogg) and Dale Wood (Dominic Storey) all crossing the Tasman for the weekend.
“The level of competition in the BNT NZ SuperTourers is very high,” Heimgartner says.
The Hampton Downs meeting will put an extra emphasis on teams’ strategy decisions as the long races will require fuel stops. The timing of these stops could make a big difference to the outcome of these races, especially if there are safety-car periods.
Saturday sees one 40-minute race and Sunday two races of 75 minutes each.
Women are a rarity at the top in four-wheel racing, and motorcycling has even fewer female contestants
Maria Costello at the Isle of Man Classic TT, 2014, riding the Peter Beugger 500cc Paton. Photo / Supplied
One of the puzzling things in motorsport today is the lack of women mixing it with the men on the same grid. There is no real reason this should be, as the machinery in this day and age is so well balanced and poised there's no need to have arms and legs like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday.
There are a few women making their way in four-wheel racing with only one, Nascar's Danica Patrick, who is doing anything at the top level.
Two or three sit on the cusp of Formula One and there are a small number sprinkled through the junior formula categories in Europe, but that's about it.
Motorcycle racing suffers an even bigger dearth of female racers sharing the grid with the blokes compared to the total number of both sexes who compete worldwide. Looking around the world, at the elite level there are only Ana Carrasco Gabarron, MotoGP Moto3, Maria Herrera Munoz, Spanish CEV Moto3, Katja Poensgen, 250 Grand Prix and probably the best-know of them all is Isle of Man and road course specialist Maria Costello.
The Brit has flung herself around the world's longest, most notorious, difficult, fickle and spectacular race circuit 44 different times on various race bikes during both the IoM TT in June, and the Manx or Classic TT in August each year.
Costello was the first woman to stand on the podium at either event when she finished third in the 2005 Ultra-Lightweight TT at the Manx GP on a Honda RVF 400VFR. During her career racing on the Snaefell Mountain Course Costello has won eight Manx GP Silver Replicas and one TT Bronze Replica.
On the official IoM website, the former veterinary nurse and now a racing journalist reckons that racing motorcycles has been character- building and life-changing and she's loved every minute of it, and will continue to do so for a long time yet.
The 41-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in 2009 for her services to motorcycling, is in New Zealand this week as one of 20 women competing in the Mike Pero Barry Sheene Motorcycle Classic at Hampton Downs.
Over the weekend Costello will be racing a Bruce Verdon Manx Norton, a Honda RS 125 and a Bimota TZ400.
"It's a dream come true for me to come and race in New Zealand and I feel very lucky to be able to come here," said Costello.
"I got to race in Australia in March and this is now the second leg of the Australians versus the New Zealanders.
"I don't race on purpose-built circuits much any more. I'm a road racer [competing on closed public roads] and this is only the third time this year I will have been on racetrack.
"Road racing is fantastic and there is nothing else like it. To be able to race around the Isle of Man makes me the luckiest woman alive. There aren't words to describe what racing at the Isle of Man is like, and all the other road courses in places like Ireland are also fantastic.
"It's real racing - there's no run- off, no gravel traps, the roads change all the time and the sensations are completely different to anything else. It's not for everybody, but I love it."
All sport by its combative nature is dangerous and motor racing is no different.
Many observers of motorsport, and in particular motorcycle racing, look to the accidents first rather than the extraordinary skills involved in controlling flying metal at incredible speeds.
For a sport that looks like it's going to go pear-shaped at any moment, there are very few fatalities in motorcycle racing considering the number of people who compete day-in and day-out.
"Accidents happen all the time in ordinary life. You can break a femur by just falling over walking down the road. The sport is dangerous, but so are so many other things in life.
"All I'm looking forward to is riding some fantastic classic bikes around Hampton Downs," said Costello.
Her passion and drive to get more women into the sport she evidently loves so much led her to becoming a member of the FIM (world motorcycling governing body) Commission for Women in Motorcycling. Its mission is to create egalitarian opportunities and promote equal treatment for women involved in activities related to motorcycling.
"More women are starting to race now and we've even had up to eight racing at some meetings in Ireland. It's great to see more women racing and that's what I'm all about now - getting more women into motorcycle racing.
"I do my own track days for women in Britain and they are becoming more and more popular. We have to make the sport more visible for the young to take part.
"And there's no reason why they can't compete on equal terms, that's what is great about the sport," said Costello.
Toyota Racing New Zealand has launched the new FT50 race car for the Toyota Racing Series, describing the new car as a significant step forward featuring the latest in race car technology and safety and a worthy successor to its predecessor.
The TRS is New Zealand’s leading single-seater category and the new FT50 will be raced by all teams and drivers in the 2015 championship.
Toyota New Zealand Motorsport Manager Steve Boyce says the FT50 builds on the success of TRS, which gives young and rising New Zealand racing drivers valuable experience driving a modern ‘wings and slicks’ single seater before they contemplate heading offshore to pursue a career.
In its first ten years the series has consistently attracted talented international drivers to New Zealand to hone their racing skills during the northern hemisphere winter, meaning TRS also gives young Kiwis a chance to gauge their speed and skill against the drivers they are likely to meet on circuits in Europe, Australia, Asia and the USA.
“This is a car for the future and a significant step up for young drivers seeking experience in our leading ‘wings and slicks’ category. We have taken a bold step forward in driver safety, technology and driving dynamics to ensure the championship continues to provide drivers with a world-class driving experience,” Mr Boyce said.
Category manager and race driver Barrie Thomlinson says the arrival of the FT50 ushers in a new era for TRS. The new car is “simply stunning”, he says, and will ensure TRS remains at the leading edge of driver development.
“Tatuus have delivered us a beautiful car which we can all be very proud of and the teams and drivers can look forward to facing a new challenge as we look to the future. As always we remain 100 per cent focused on our core mission of developing young drivers’ skills in the cockpit and this car will enable us to continue to do so.”
Mr Thomlinson says the championship has propelled many young Kiwi drivers onto the world stage and the top echelons of motorsport.
• Brendon Hartley of Palmerston North now races in the FIA World Endurance Championship as a professional driver with Porsche
• Mitch Evans races in GP2 and is fourth overall with one round remaining
• Richie Stanaway competes as a factory Aston Martin driver in WEC and has competed at the front in GP3
• Nick Cassidy, races currently in the FIA European Formula Three championship and heads to the biggest event on the F3 calendar, the Macau GP. He is the third Kiwi-born TRS graduate to compete there in recent years
• Wanganui’s Earl Bamber raced in A1GP for New Zealand and is now heading towards becoming a multiple Porsche champion in Europe and Asia
• Australia is home to Shane Van Gisbergen and Daniel Gaunt who compete successfully in V8 Supercars and the Porsche Carrera series.
TRS has also honed the driving skills of recognisable young international racers which include TRS race winner and current RED Bull Racing Formula one driver Daniil Kvyat; Alex Lynn, now closing in on the GP3 title; and Lucas Auer, currently fourth in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship.
The new car has been tested in Italy and New Zealand, with multiple TRS champion Nick Cassidy driving the car at the Italian shake down tests and twice TRS champion Daniel Gaunt handling the testing duties in New Zealand at Hampton Downs and Taupo. Both drivers agree that the new car will be a valuable platform for drivers seeking to move up the international single-seater ladder.
Mr Thomlinson says the data obtained from each test will be used to decide on the final set up specification of the car prior to the individual race teams taking over for the 2015 series.
“It’s going to be very exciting to see the drivers and teams work with this new car and we are sure those who have worked so hard to make this new car a reality will be pleased with the outcome,” he says.
ABOUT THE 2015 TOYOTA RACING SERIES
The new FT50 race car will make its race debut race in the 2015 Toyota Racing Series, with the five week championship kicking off at Ruapuna in January and finishing with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Feilding in February.
The Toyota Racing Series pits the fastest rising stars of New Zealand motorsport against top international drivers in a fifteen race Gold Star championship that offers drivers the chance to win some of the most prestigious and historic trophies in New Zealand motor racing.
Barrie Thomlinson says given the FT50’s promising form in testing “we can expect to see existing lap records lowered at each of the circuits visited in the championship.”
Canterbury sports fans can look forward to spectacular racing with the return of the series to Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna on January 17-18. The Toyota Racing Series last included this challenging circuit in the 2008-2009 season.
The championship then heads south to Invercargill for round two at Teretonga, a favourite South Island circuit and the southernmost permanent race circuit in the world.
A long haul north after Teretonga brings the cars and crews to Hampton Downs in the north Waikato for the third round and the series mid-point.
The following weekend the championship returns to Taupo’s Ricoh Motorsport Park after a year’s absence. This circuit hosted the New Zealand round of the A1GP championship and is the penultimate round of the championship.
The final round of the 2015 Championship is the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Feilding. There, the drivers will be fighting to secure the outright championship and rookie titles as well as the chance to put their name on New Zealand’s most prestigious motor racing title, the New Zealand Grand Prix.
2015 Toyota Racing Series calendar:
14 – 18 January 2015 Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, Christchurch
22 – 25 January 2015 Teretonga Park, Invercargill
29 January – 1 February 2015 Hampton Downs, Auckland
5 – 8 February 2015 Taupo Motorsport Park, Taupo
12 – 15 February 2015 Manfeild, Feilding, New Zealand Grand Prix
Media: Veritas Comm 18 October 2014
For this article and more by NZ Motor Racing click here
Earl Bamber crowned 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion
LKM Racing’s Earl Bamber took his second consecutive Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship crown today after a faultless pole-to-flag run in the penultimate round of the season at the Sportscar Champions Festival in Shanghai. Bamber crossed the line just over a second ahead of PICC Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, who kept the new champion in his sights throughout the 12-lap race. Third was Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger, who saw his last remaining chance to lift the title from Bamber evaporate, when the New Zealand superstar collected his seventh victory of the season.
While the overall championship may have been wrapped up with a race in hand, the Class B title is still very much open going into the finale of 2014. Nexus Racing’s Alif Hamdan drove a storming race to take the win from pole, but a third place finish for Dorr Havelock Racing driver Yuey Tan keeps the contest very much alive. Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen was second, but it was an unlucky race for OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia who spun out.
Said Bamber: “Alex didn’t make it easy for me in the race, but all season we knew it would be difficult as we’d missed a race in Zhuhai. It’s a fantastic result for the team, and the competition has been great all season. Some of the best racing the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has seen.”
Ragginger was gracious in defeat and quick to congratulate his season-long title rival: “I didn’t get such a good start today. I was following Earl and Alex for the first couple of laps but I couldn’t stay with them.”
Tan, meanwhile, was excited to still be in the Class B title chase: “I’d like to thank my team for giving me a great car. Luckily the driver managed to get it together towards the end! Alif has raced a really great season, but maybe I’ll just pray a little that something happens tomorrow. Whatever the outcome though, we’ve had a really superb season.”
As the lights went out, Bamber got away well with Imperatori in hot pursuit, while Avila had a look on the inside of Ragginger but realised there was no room to make the move. Behind the race leaders, the battle was already heating up between the two drivers who would be the stars of the show: Zheng Tong Auto’s Zhang Da Sheng of China and Team Yongda Dongfang’s Ro.C. Skyangel. Having got by Zhang, initially Skyangel was able to pressure Avila ahead until he was forced by the furious Chinese driver to put all his efforts into defending. The pair made slight contact and the battle was on.
With Zhang piling on the pressure, Skyangel faltered allowing his rival by, only for the Singaporean to immediately strike back, going up the inside just two corners later to reclaim fifth. Zhang fought back, the pair engaged in a crowd-thrilling cat and mouse chase to the line. A big moment just two laps from the flag saw Zhang lose time giving Skyangel some breathing space.
Meanwhile, guest driver Carlo Van Dam, who had been running in eighth, began to drop back with first Hamdan and then Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin getting by him.
Media: Porsche Asia 18 October 2014
For this article and more by NZ Motor Racing click here
He’s 73 but motor racing legend Kenny Smith shows little sign of slowing down, writes Michael Brown
Kenny Smith thinks his 57 years of continuous motor racing might just be a world record. Photo / Michael Craig
Kenny Smith has a collection of memorabilia upstairs in his garage at Hampton Downs.
On one wall are scores of trophies he's won over the years and scattered around are images of races from yesteryear, framed certificates, old racing helmets, sashes, wreaths and books. It takes up the entire floor yet is only a fraction of all the memorabilia he possesses.
It's hardly surprising, considering Smith is entering his 57th consecutive season on the motor racing circuit. The 73-year-old first raced competitively in 1958, when he claimed the New Zealand Hill Climb Championships as a 17-yearold, and has barely stopped winning since.
He's accumulated three New Zealand Grand Prix titles (1976, 1990and2004), five Gold Star driver awards, three Formula 5000 titles, three Penang Grand Prix titles, won the Selangor Grand Prix twice and the Malaysian Grand Prix. And he's also been awarded anMBE.
Even his most recent start, last weekend's Formula Atlantic racing at Hampton Downs, he won.
"I hang in there," he says with a grin. "I don't think I've got any slower. I love it. January will be the 57th year I've done it without missing a season. It might be a world record. It would be close to it. A lot of people get into it later in life but not many do it continuously.
"My reaction time is as good as it's ever been. It hasn't gone away. I'm as sharp as anyone when it comes to the lights on a grid. A lot of the driving is done with your head. You work out how you're going to psyche out the guy who's beside you or in front and work him over. It's not just driving a car."
Smith's chassis has a few dents on it and he looks his age. He has deep set wrinkles etched into his face like widening cracks on a road and arthritis in his hands. He's also had a triple bypass and has had a few stents inserted in his arteries.
He once even completed a race with his heart medication taped to the dash board.
"The most amazing thing is he looks only 70 because I'm sure he's 150," jokes Bob McMurray, who was involved with Formula 1 team McLaren for 30 years and became a voice of motorsport in New Zealand.
Appearances can be deceiving. Smith still has the wavy hair that seems to spring back after being constrained under a racing helmet and he bounds up the stairs to find an old photograph like a teenager.
He must undergo a medical each year before he's allowed to race but says "it's no problem passing it".
"My cardiologist says my fitness rate on a 12-minute treadmill test is better than most 40 year olds. I don't go to a gym - fitness helps, of course, but a lot of people go overboard on fitness and probably do more harm wrecking themselves - but I'm on the move all the time, lugging engine boxes around. That keeps your mind and body sharp."
He's put on weight since his prime racing condition, although that's relative. He used to pack 57kg-58kg around his diminutive 1.57m frame but is now a hefty 64kg.
He still slips easily into the single-seater cars he's been racing for most of his life.
It's a good life and one he's not about to give up.
"As long as I can see and get in a car and feel that I haven't lost the edge, I will keep going," he says. "If you want to sit at home and watch TV all day, you will sit there and die."
There was a period in the late 1980swhen it seemed the chequered flag was being waved on his career. He had just had a triple bypass heart operation and a cardiologist told him to stop racing.
"That was a big shock," he admits. "It knocks you back when someone says that. I suppose that's typical of what they have to say when they think you are in bad shape but they don't realise that it's not the end of life. You keep going. I was lucky. Twenty years prior to that [operation], you would have been dead with those sort of complaints.
"I contemplated the end for a couple of weeks but then I thought this was bullshit. Once I had the bypass done and was on my feet, I worked hard on getting fit. Two months later, I was back in the car and did the whole series. I had a hell of a year doing it."
Smith finished second behind Paul Radisich in the New Zealand Grand Prix, an agonising result for a couple of reasons. Not only did he miss another title by one-tenth of a second but he also suffered in the car.
His back ached painfully every time he went over a bump on the Pukekohe track and he contemplated retiring but was still mixing it with Radisich so attempted to get more comfortable.
"I loosened the seat belts and turned my body sideways and used my shoulder to hold myself up," he says. "My foot was on the steering rack which runs through the car and I jammed myself stiff in there. The next day, I found out that when they do a bypass, they pull you open and crack some bones and one of them was piercing a muscle in my back and bleeding in there.
"I got it looked at and they said, 'you'll have to stop now, you won't be able to carry on for the rest of the season'. I said, 'OK'. Next weekend, I was back racing at Manfeild."
Racing used to be a family affair for the Smiths. Father Morrie introduced a young Kenny to cars and it wasn't long before he was "laying some rubber" at the lights on the streets of Point England.
"Some of the cars I raced, I used to test them on the streets, upsetting the neighbours," he says. "That didn't matter."
Kenny and his father painted cars before the pair worked together in a car yard. Morrie also acted as chief mechanic until he died in 1988 and the rest of the family tagged along to watch.
"My mum went to every race meeting I went to until five years ago when she died," Smith says.
These days, the motor racing fraternity is his family.
"I'm not married," he says. "How can you be married and go motor racing? I have seen so many of my friends married and so many broken marriages over motorsport."
But Smith has 'adopted' plenty of youngsters in his time. Just as significant as his success as a driver has been his ability to spot and nurture young talent and get them started.
Scott Dixon, Brendon Hartley, Shane Van Gisbergen, Daniel Gaunt, Greg Murphy ... they've all had help from Smith.
"When I was really young, Kenny was a bit of a mentor and helped a lot, just as he's helped a lot of guys over the years," says Dixon, the former Indy 500 winner and three-time IndyCar Series champion.
"For me, during the end of my time in New Zealand, it was his contacts that were really important. He just know things after racing for so long. The one guy you'd want to pick the brains of would be Kenny.
"He loves being involved and helping. He just plain loves racing, man. That's the cool part of it. He's really enjoyed seeing the success of all the guys he's helped and, whenever I get back [to New Zealand], I always try to set a day aside to go and see him and talk about racecars and racing."
Tom Alexander is the latest protégé to work in Smith's garageandhopesonedaytoraceV8 Supercars. His chances are good if history is any judge.
Smith is hoping to put a V8 SuperTourers team together next year - he had hoped to enter one this year but couldn't raise enough money - and sees more of a future in team management.
"I feel good when you can get a kid going good," he says. "I don't do it for money. If I was smart, I would sign up as their manager and head overseas with them but I get a thrill out of it when they win a race."
Smith has rarely lost that winning feeling. He started winning at a young age and is still winning now.
He's found the move into more modern race cars a challenge because of his advancing years and the stiffer suspension and smaller tyres that are features of classes such as the Toyota Racing Series which younger drivers are more able to cope with.
Put him in a Formula Atlantic or Formula 5000, and he's still driving his 1975 Lola T332, and he's consistently finishing in the top three if not at the front. He describes the ride as like getting into a "big, comfortable armchair".
Smith mixed it with the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Chris Amon in their prime in the 1960s and '70s, and many still wonder if he would have made it had he dedicated himself to chasing a Formula 1 drive.
"I have no doubt he would have been competitive," McMurray says. "He should have gone overseas. He had the chance but declined for one reason or another.
"He could have made a very, very good living at that time - as long as he survived, of course, because it was a very dangerous time in motorsport. He gave up a career in international motorsport to stay here."
Smith doesn't regret staying in New Zealand but it occasionally nags at him.
"I probably should have gone to England and the States in the early days," he says. "I probably could have got a [F1] drive. I can even remember seeing an old Autosport and them advertising for Formula 1 drivers. Well, they were killing them week by week, so I suppose they needed more.
"You make your life and do these things. You talk yourself into things and talk yourself out of it. Back in the '70s, money wasn't easy - $10,000 in those days was probably $500,000 today. I'm happy what I've done. I've raced in Asia and Australia and been successful in everything I've done.
"I raced in the '60s, '70s and '80s, and that was racing. To me, Formula One is absolute bullshit today. The driver sits in the car and has so many controls and is told what to do. Michael Schumacher said that it was 20 per cent driver and 80 per cent car. In the old days, it was 80 per cent driver and 20 per cent car."
Smith acknowledges he won't win another New Zealand Grand Prix -he's racedin46editionsand is keen to attain 50 starts-but he's less worried about winning these days. Sometimes he's more intent on which horse won the third at Ellerslie and many of his races have been delayed as he listens to a call.
Smith has the mangled chassis from a crash that broke his foot a couple of years ago hanging on his garage wall. It seems to act as both a trophy and a reminder but he has no fears of crashing because speed is a relative concept.
"I don't feel fast. When you're standing as a spectator, it looks pretty hairy and hard work, but when you are in the car, it's totally different. You might think your mind has to be on everything but it's when you relax that it all comes together. You have plenty of time. When you go down the straight in a powerful car, you almost have time to put a cigarette in your mouth and light it."
Kiwi V8 star hates driving in the wet, but he's still good at it
One of the most well-respected motorsport team managers, Steve Hallam, can't work out why V8 Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen is so good in the wet.
The Kiwi has told Driven he "hates" driving in the rain.
But anyone watching the Tekno Autosports racer last weekend at the Sydney Motorsport Park will be muttering, "Yeah right".
Racing in the wet is a great leveller, but as Hallam says, you still have to get all the parts working at their best.
"One of the great intangibles from where I sit is how he [Van Gisbergen] knows where the grip is, and how much he has to deal with," he said.
"The grip levels change every lap and I don't know how he does it. Some drivers are better at it than others, even though they don't like the conditions and Shane is honest about it.
"The thing that I do know is that Shane will give everything he's got any time he goes out, and he feels the car better than many others.
"He likes driving many different cars in different conditions, and I think that helps with him being able to cope with changing conditions."
Driven caught up with Van Gisbergen in Auckland during the week to get his thoughts on working with Hallam and "that" drive.
"Working with Steve is great and learning from him about what to look for with the car and how to describe what it's doing," Van Gisbergen said.
"The broadness of his understanding of how a car works is hard to believe.
"I still don't really know why I go so well in the wet but I know the car was great [Sydney] and I enjoyed going searching for grip. We were doing really wide lines and it seemed to work because there's no grip on the normal dry lines. I just seem to be able to pick it [finding grip] up a bit quicker than the others."
Other than his undoubted skill in wet and dry, Van Gisbergen's rise up the table to fourth place before the start of the three endurance rounds, is down to Hallam, his driver and the team's platform of consistency.
"Success in a V8 championship is realised over a season's campaign. Everybody strives for consistency but periodically you get the stool kicked out from underneath you as you try to attain a level of consistency that will gain you good results.
"This category is very outcome-focused - must win a championship, finish top three etc - and while these are worthy statements in isolation, they don't achieve anything. What a team has to do is to focus on is how it's going to achieve its goals, not what the goals are.
"Things don't always go to plan so you have to be prepared for days that don't go according to plan and learn from them. Every sports team in the world wants to find some level of consistency that allows them to perform at their best, and we're not alone in trying to do that.
"What I say to our guys here is that you're responsible for things inside your control, but not outside your control so don't worry about that. Everyone was employed because they are good at what they do and wishing and hoping doesn't achieve anything."
Van Gisbergen is also rejoining the V8 SuperTourers series with Smeg Racing after skipping the sprint races this year. He will partner with Simon Evans.
Van Gisbergen is the second full-time V8 Supercars pilot to confirm for the endurance rounds. Tim Slade will co-drive with Richard Moore.
"It's the first time I have ever been a co-driver and it is a different role," said Van Gisbergen. "But it's not about me this year. I have to bring the car home straight and bank the points for Simon."
Round one of the enduro series is at Taupo Motorsport Park on September 27 and 28.
Round two is at Hampton Downs on November 1 and 2, and the finale is at Pukekohe on November 29 and 30.
Hampton Downs Motor Sport Park will expand activities at its complex this October with the opening of a huge park for casual and competition off road use.
Polaris, the world’s largest off road vehicle producer has taken up naming rights and the new venue will be known as the Hampton Downs Polaris Off Road Park.
The off road park is a new concept for off road motorsports, providing accessibility to a well-established facility on a weekly basis with track hire available all season. It will cater for casual use every Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 4pm during a season that will run from October to May and will cater for bikes, ATVs, UTVs and off road race cars. There are plans for regular competitive events and brand new “Skids 4 Kids” days will also be a feature, encouraging younger generations to become involved. Major partner Polaris sees it as a great fit in its drive to increase popularity and sales of its factory-produced range of off road recreation and competition vehicles.
Park Manager Ian Foster believes The Polaris Off Road Park will be significant for the growth and exposure of the sport which is often conducted in remote, one-off, locations. “The aim is to grow the sport by giving anybody and everybody the opportunity to experience off roading in a controlled environment with competitions at the venue to expose the sport of Off Road Racing to the general public,” he explained.
A focus will be on the factory produced class of UTV vehicles, which are fast becoming popular for both recreation and competition. The first UTV Championship will be a feature of the season and will be staged in conjunction with a revived Off Road Grand Prix Series. Auckland Off Road Racing Club has booked eight dates to run Off Road Association of New Zealand (ORANZ) sanctioned events at the park over next summer, which will include a National Championship round.
Hampton Downs circuit is already popular amongst the country’s car brands and the new facility will also be available for dealer demonstration days, corporate ride days and track hire during weekends and week days by appointment. The public will also be welcome to hire an off road vehicle on offer or bring their own, trailered, machine to any of the public weekends scheduled throughout the summer season.
Oldsmobile lives up to its name but it’s no museum piece, writes Jacqui Madelin
Dennis Lowe's curved-dash Oldsmobile was imported by the Subritzky family from Australia. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
It's not often you see an 111-year-old car with a full history, but here's one. Bought in Australia, the curved-dash Oldsmobile was imported by the Subritzky family on the ship Greyhound - it sat on the deck, and was unloaded at ports to putter up to the pub. I've seen the photo.
And the one in which it stars as the first car to crash into public transport in New Zealand - on Labour Day 1904, on Auckland's Hobson St. Hence the artillery-type replacement wheel from a later-series curved-dash Olds, and the box front it carried until owner Dennis Lowe found a curved-dash template and made another, from wood, by hand, "It was quite a bit of work."
The three original wheels are second-growth hickory, as used in axe and hammer handles, and yes, the car is largely original.
Lowe had to patch the rear lamp and replace some lenses and he's about to refit the refurbished front lamps - all three run on kerosene. He built the back louvres ("After the tram smash there was a flat piece of kauri and it's meant to be louvred.")
He reckons the mudguards are the original paint, complete with the dings of a century of use. The floor mat is a repro, as is the ignition switch, but it has the original coil.
He does have a spare motor. "They reckon if you have a spare you won't need it." The footbrake operates a metal band working on a metal drum beside the diff sprocket. "The first ones didn't have a park brake, so when the chain broke you'd sail on merrily down the road until you hit something."
When Lowe took it for a VIN, "It hadn't been registered since the war, the man said he couldn't give it a WoF as it had no brakes. Well, he couldn't see brake drums, so I had to demonstrate, you brake hard, the spring winds, and when you stop it jumps back a metre as the spring unwinds. Everyone applauded! If you have to stop downhill you jam it in reverse as well.''
The Oldsmobile is likely to get more wear under Dennis Lowe's ownership. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
The seat leather's tatty in places, you can see the horsehair. "They used horsehair as it stays springy," Lowe says. "The hair was washed, wound round sticks with a preservative and dried and it stayed curly, which is where it gets the spring from." He casually pulls a bit out to show me - clearly this is no museum piece. And we prove it, driving through Manurewa to our photo location, before he hands me the tiller. But first, we have to start it.
Turn the main tank on via the rear tap. Turn the oil tap on - it's under the driver's knee. Turn the petrol tap beside it a half turn. The carb has no bowl, and this does the job. The choke? "You'd only need that in Siberia." Now turn the ignition on, make sure it's in neutral ("Vital") then retard the spark ("Even more vital"), depress the decompression pedal - a button on the floor which pulls the valve up - then two turns of the crank. That handle is by the driver hip and can be done from the seat if you're limber enough - Lowe is - and the centrally mounted, water-cooled, horizontal single-cylinder engine is soon chuffing away.
There's a gear lever to his right - push it backwards to go backwards, forwards to go forwards, then there's another neutral and finally the second gear. The only things a teenager would recognise as car controls are the foot accelerator and brake; the car is steered by a tiller. The turning circle is phenomenally tight. "I did a gymkhana and they closed the slalom course up for me when they saw what she'd do." It was actually a bit too sensitive at first - "I put a wedge between the spring and the axle to give it more castor and make it more predictable and steady."
We've only gone a few metres before we get the first thumbs-up; smiles, waves, cars slowing for cheery comments, and no one's annoyed we're holding them up. Lowe's smiling too. "I just have to pinch myself that it's mine."
He'd wanted one since he was a kid making models, and - long story short - he went to Ellerslie Concours with an Olds-owning friend and got chatting to an 85-year-old gent who had this car. After the Subritzkys sold it the same owners had it from 1928 or '29 until 2011, discussions ensued, and the day the Lowes were going on holiday the deal was struck.
But it's my turn to drive. I'm startled to find no clutch - the epicyclic gearbox does the lot. Into low and we pull away, then quite quickly up through neutral and into high, the steering remarkably sensitive and a bird's-eye view of the road; it's an odd feeling with nothing in front of your knees. Down a hill or with a tail wind it'll get to 40 or 50 km/h, Dennis says, but it's at its best on the flat at closer to 30. Mind you, it pulls impressively on uphills, if you open the petrol switch behind your knee. It's only rated to 3.3kW - "The same as a modern Briggs and Stratton lawnmower" - but the 54kg flywheel in a 300kg-odd car means there's plenty of torque. It's spinning at 900rpm at 40 km/h, but we're chuntering along at about 200rpm, only just ticking over. It feels odd cornering, you really are perched atop it, and the tapered leaf spring suspension is no match for modern equivalents.
It doesn't pay to look down as the wheels are wobbling alarmingly, you'd feel it if you went much faster. I chuckle at the thought, but Lowe has actually driven this thing around Hampton Downs race track, at the Ron Roycroft festival. "The others did three laps, and I did one!"
His usual tow car is a 1935 Chrysler Plymouth PJ, a two-door I admire before we settle down over tea to look at the original registration record - registration was compulsory from June 1906, and the car had plate number A52. It's been towed as far as Napier, but closer to home he's driven it to Clarkes Beach, though he prefers to avoid open roads because its speed is so limited.
This was the most popular car in the world in 1903, with about 19,000 built in a six-year model life, and was the first mass-produced car, built on an assembly line using interchangeable parts.
Most of those you see now are copies built around the motor as the wood rotted, but this one's American oak frame and poplar panels survived rather well, with only minor wear in the crank handle's wooden socket.
I suspect it'll get more wear under Lowe's ownership, he loves to see these cars kept out of museums and on the road.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.