Lead­foot Fes­ti­val

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words and Pho­tos: Steve Ritchie

Set in the idyl­lic coun­try­side of Ha­hei is Rod Millen’s farm — the aptly named Lead­foot Ranch — and ev­ery two years, Rod opens it up for the Lead­foot Fes­ti­val. This is the North Is­land’s ver­sion of Pikes Peak hill climb, and ac­tion takes place up the ranch’s 1.6 kilo­me­tre tar­mac drive­way, start­ing from the gate where it is rel­a­tively flat farm­land, mak­ing its wind­ing way up into the pine trees through a se­ries of tight hair-pins.

Sev­eral dif­fer­ent classes of cars were in­vited to at­tend by Rod Millen — in­clud­ing ral­ly­ing, open-wheel­ers, 4x4s, sports cars, karts, mo­tor­cy­cles and what ap­peared to be a crowd fa­vorite — drift cars. In at­ten­dance were name driv­ers such as Richard Ma­son, Mad Mike Whid­dett (a renowned drifter), Anne Thom­son in her 1906 Dar­racq and, of course, Rod Millen him­self. Rod, in fact, raced three of his cars over the week­end — a Mazda RX-3, the Toy­ota Cel­ica which he raced at Pikes Peak, and the Toy­ota Tun­dra that his Mil­len­works Rac­ing was con­tracted to build for the Cham­pi­onship Off-road Rac­ing se­ries.

The Lead­foot Fes­ti­val is held over three days, with the Fri­day be­ing a non-com­pet­i­tive day, al­low­ing the en­trants to set up their cars and fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with the course. This day of ful­lon prac­tise made for many a hairy mo­ment and lots of hay-bale de­struc­tion.

On Satur­day, rac­ing started for good, with the first car out of the box be­ing the Co­bra 472R of Be­van Wright. Times didn’t mean a lot in the morn­ing since, as the day went on, times came down. This was due to the heat in the sun, rub­ber get­ting laid on the course, car set-ups be­ing re­fined in be­tween runs, or driver ex­pe­ri­ence. As the day went on there were a few re­tire­ments as is of­ten the case in mo­tor­sport due to gear fail­ure or over-driv­ing. Sun­day morn­ing was once again used for the com­peti­tors to race up the hill­side in the hope of bet­ter­ing their time from the pre­vi­ous runs.

Although a lot of the ac­tion was about par­tic­i­pat­ing for the good­will of mo­tor­sport, there was the top-ten shootout — this tak­ing place on Sun­day af­ter­noon for pre-1975 cars, and fol­low­ing that for all-out honours. In the pre-1975 stakes, first place went to Paul Mccarthy driv­ing a 1974 Ford Es­cort RS1600, Neil Tolich in his 1970 Ford Capri Per­ana tak­ing out sec­ond place, fol­lowed by Rick Bone’s 1972 Dat­sun 1200 coupe in third.

The hotly-con­tested tro­phy for the all-out win was, for the third year run­ning, won by the event’s host, Rod Millen, driv­ing his Pikes Peak Toy­ota Cel­ica. The ex­cite­ment built up as Millen’s record-break­ing time was held back by of­fi­cials un­til last man out, Daniel Bray, had com­pleted his run. Although the karts of Daniel Bray and Steve Cox (also in the top ten) were ex­tremely quick, Daniel just missed out on the num­ber one spot with his time of 49.03s to Rod’s 48.65s. Richard Ma­son had a highly en­thu­si­as­tic run to take third place with a time of 49.67s.

Once again, Rod Millen hosted a tremen­dous event and hope­fully it will some­day com­pare to the likes of the Good­wood Fes­ti­val. Off-track ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded the Po­laris off-road demon­stra­tion, a ’60s style ‘Pam­per Par­lour’ for the ladies (and gen­tle­men), a chil­dren’s play­ground, an aero­nau­tic dis­play (with com­men­tary by mo­tor rac­ing’s own Jim Bar­clay), while evening en­ter­tain­ment on Satur­day and Sun­day nights was pro­vided by two fab­u­lous bands — The Mon­roes and Catch 22. There was also, of course, no short­age of au­to­mo­bile dis­plays from clas­sic cars to the lat­est Lotii and off-road 4x4s.

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