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.