To Fin­ish First

New Zealand Classic Car - - Editorial -

In this month’s in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar Flash­back col­umn, Michael Clark says farewell to a truly in­flu­en­tial fig­ure within both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mo­tor sport — Phil Kerr. The part­ner­ship Phil forged with his friend, Bruce Mclaren, would lead to to­tal dom­i­na­tion of the CanAm rac­ing se­ries and, of course, the team’s in­creas­ing suc­cess within For­mula 1.

I’ll leave Michael to map out Phil’s mo­tor-sport ca­reer, as my own brief but per­sonal in­volve­ment with Phil Kerr came very late in the game — around this time in 2007, to be ex­act. At that time I was lucky enough to get the chance to check through the prin­ter’s proofs for Phil’s ex­cel­lent book, To Fin­ish First — the tale of his early friend­ship with Bruce Mclaren, his role in the set­ting up of the Brab­ham rac­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, and, of course, his later in­volve­ment with the Mclaren team in both F1 and Can-am rac­ing. As an added bonus — for a Bri­tish-born bloke like me — To Fin­ish First in­cluded a ter­rific overview of the now iconic Kiwi mo­tor-sport clique that gath­ered around Bruce Mclaren dur­ing the Swing­ing Six­ties in Bri­tain.

To Fin­ish First was sched­uled for re­lease on Novem­ber 16, 2007, and we worked with lo­cal au­thor, Todd Niall, and Phil to put to­gether a pre­view — this be­ing duly printed in the De­cem­ber 2007 edi­tion of

As the event grad­u­ally wound down and the guests slowly ebbed away, I took the op­por­tu­nity to but­ton­hole Phil in or­der to present him with a few copies of the mag­a­zine con­tain­ing our To Fin­ish First pre­view, and of course to get him to sign my copy of the book. Al­though we’d never met be­fore, he greeted me like a long-lost friend, and we hap­pily chat­ted away for a fur­ther 20 min­utes or so. Fi­nally, with the book­shop own­ers want­ing to close up, Phil signed my copy of his book, and also put his sig­na­ture across the pages of the New Zealand Clas­sic Car pre­view fea­ture.

I wouldn’t catch up with Phil again un­til the Bruce Mclaren Fes­ti­val at Hamp­ton Downs in 2010 but, alas, that would be last time I’d ever get the chance to share a few words with him.

When I re­ceived the news of Phil’s death last month, I pulled out that signed copy of To Fin­ish First and read it all over again, as a fi­nal trib­ute to a man who played such an im­por­tant part in lift­ing Ki­wis to the very pin­na­cle of in­ter­na­tional mo­tor-sport achieve­ment.

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