NORTHERN INCURSION —
IHRA AUCKLAND INVASION
at the frequency that I’m doing it. If you’d said to me 10 years ago that I’d be driving a nitro car, I’d have gone, “Yeah, that’d be the dream to do that one day.”
But to be able to do it three times in an event? Yeah, we race six times a year, we test the cars — I’ve got a hot rod that’s got a big silver fern splashed across it! For them to take that chance on whatever Graeme saw in a young couple from New Zealand — young Josh Leahy came from a wheel-stander; he got the opportunity to step up to nitro. They see people who deserve, or work hard for, an opportunity, and have made many a dream come true.
You are, literally, living the dream. People say it, but you really are. You get up your whole life and go to work, but imagine getting up every day and looking forward to work. I do. I get up in the morning, and go, Cool,‘ it’s work time.’ I never thought I’d be in a position where I could say, ‘I like going to work.’ There’s not too many people in the world who do that.
You’re obviously not taking it for granted, and it sounds as if the same goes for the rest of the crew. No, and we need a guy like Graeme to make it all happen. There’s always something to do — he’s 73 years old, but never stands still. He gets to work at Rocket Industries at 6am every morning. Graeme came from a very tough upbringing, and started with nothing. He met his wife, Wendy, got into racing, and they built a nitro altered that, at the time, they ran on a shoestring. They were travelling around the country in an open trailer, skimping and saving to get to a race — which is quite cool, because my racing experience here in New Zealand was similar: you did everything you could just to make it to the racetrack. You’d eat noodles for two years just to buy the car. Graeme came from that same thing, but harder; a lot harder.
They’ve obviously done well with the series, as we discussed earlier, but to take it international must be a very big deal. To go international is huge, and I guess I’ll set the record straight here; this wasn’t even my idea. Graeme and Wendy said, “Hey, what do you think?” and I thought [that] we could make it work, get some people in — what a task! The logistics and the people and trying to work in with Meremere when you’re in a different country — logistically, it was a lot of hard work, and it’s happened thanks to a lot of people. No way would I ever say [that] it came down to me — it was a lot of people on all sides who did a lot of work to make it happen.
Now that it has happened and you’ve proven you can go it internationally, what’s the future for AONFC? We’d love to come back to New Zealand. Obviously, it’s important for Aeroflow to grow our branding in New Zealand, which is happening. It helped to have the hot rods here, and the product and branding are getting bigger over here. Today, we’re probably going to have a few fans following the cars, and getting an understanding of what we’re about. Everything we do — and Graeme’s a big stickler for it — is about being prepared. Be as prepared as we can to put on a show. Obviously, we can’t do anything about Mother Nature, but it’s about being prepared.
It looks to us as if it’s working. Yeah, and we try to do things differently. We had the kids’ colouring-in competition, and there would have been a good 100-plus kids who’d gone to the effort to do the colouring-in competition — who’d printed it out, coloured it in, and brought it here. Then there were the ones who printed it out and didn’t bring it! We had a plan today to do the startline experience — the lucky ones get to go down there and experience what it’s like. How often do you get to stand between 8000hp going down the drag strip? It’s all for the show, and for being able to give that experience to people. For me, I’ve gotta stop and think: this is what I get to do for a living.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Morice. We’re looking forward to AONFC returning to New Zealand! If you want to work on AONFC cars, this could be your chance. Morice explains, “We’re actually looking for a Kiwi employee. One of the big myths, the hardest things, is people thinking, ‘I don’t know anything about nitro; I can’t do that’. An engine’s an engine, and, obviously, we’ll teach you the ins and outs of nitro, which has its things that are different, things that you gotta do differently, and different routines. There’s a myth around nitro, but eventually it just becomes a fuel that you use. You don’t have to have nitro experience to come and work on nitro funny cars. From the Kiwi point of view, you’ve obviously got me, Clint, and Mitchell. Grant Downing does all our chassis work, so he’ll come over if we need any chassis work done. My crew’s still all Kiwi — probably, if you were to ask all the Aussies, there’s too many Kiwis! “We want people who want to learn. If they think they know it all already, we don’t want ’em. If someone wants to learn, you can teach them pretty quickly, and we’ve got the tools — we’ve got no shortage of tools and opportunities — so you learn quickly because you can.” Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you think this sounds like you.