Remember this kid?
“Hamilton redhead Jim Palmer, who has been racing since he was 16, celebrated his 21st birthday by finishing third in the New Zealand Grand Prix and rounded off the season with an easy Waimate 50 win. With an imposing record in sports and singleseat cars, he is already one of New Zealand’s finest drivers.”
That was Peter Greenslade writing in the first edition of The Shell Book of NZ Motor Racing in 1963. By the sheerest of coincidences another redhead, David Young, was in another photo on the same page. David had raced a superb 1950s C-Type Jaguar sports-racer before all us young blokes got together and boarded the good ship Ruahine in 1961 for the voyage to the UK and a new life for all of us, in one way and another. We’re all now in our 70s so it seems like a long time since we started doing something as unlikely as motor racing!
Wally Willmott, another of our original Timaru gang, joined us in the UK in the early sixties and would become one of Bruce McLaren’s first mechanics. These days Wal lives in far-south Invercargill but is back in the racing game and thoroughly enjoying his time fettling Jamie Conroy’s car to dominate Formula Ford racing in New Zealand this past season. Wal and the late super-enthusiast George Begg worked together from their Invercargill base and made a pact that they would find a young driver and give him a helping hand up the ladder in his motor racing career as a way of putting something back into a sport that had been so good to both of them.