New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing — celebrating Kenny Smith T
he countdown is on for the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing (NZFMR), which will be held at Hampton Downs over January 20–22.
Some of the confirmed categories include Formula 5000 (F5000), Historic Formula 1 (F1), Central Muscle Cars, Group A / Heritage Touring Cars, Formula Junior Group 1, Formula Junior Group 2, Historic Formula Ford, Libre / Historic single-seater /Atlantic cars, Historic Muscle Cars and Historic Saloon Cars, and European Racing Classics.
This year, the NZFMR will celebrate one of the legends of New Zealand motor sport, the great Kenny Smith, who, at the age of 75, is still one of the frontrunners in F5000.
Tony Roberts, one of the original owners of Hampton Downs, will also compete in the F5000 category in his high-winged Mclaren M10A. Roberts has been a fan of the stock-block 5.0-litre V8-powered single-seaters since he bought his first one in 2002.
“The attraction of the Formula 5000 category is that they are pretty basic cars with a lot of power,” he said. “I love powerful cars, and, back in the day, they were one of the fastest in the world. They’ve got massive wide tyres, they’ve got wings, and they’re just a really fun and challenging car to drive.”
Roberts is looking forward to returning to the North Waikato race track that he sold to Tony Quinn in May 2015: “It’s great to see that Tony has
completed the plans we had for Hampton Downs. It’s looking very smart, and I reckon the Formula 5000s will enjoy the back straight. They prefer a more open track, so it might be a bit tight around the newer section, but it should still be a great weekend.”
Unlike in some other categories, in F5000, the stars really are the cars. Most of the owners consider themselves custodians of these classic vehicles, rather than out-andout racers. Classic marques that feature in the F5000 category include Lola, Mclaren, Begg, Mcrae, March, Talon, and Elfin, and some of the cars have been driven by legends of the sport like James Hunt, Mario Andretti, and Chris Amon.
“We look to put on a really good show,” said David Abbott from New Zealand Formula 5000. “These cars make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you hear them for the first time. The noise of a high-revving V8 has to be heard to be believed. If you’re a petrolhead, it’s heaven.
“They’re hard to drive but they’re ferociously quick. They are way quicker than modern-day GT cars, even though they’re 40 years old. When the flags go down and the lights go out, it’s real racing. We raced at Phillip Island recently, and we’re quicker around Phillip Island than the Moto GTS. You’re talking over 300kph on the straight.”
The recently-crowned FIA Masters Historic F1 champion, Englishman Michael Lyons, will make the trip from the UK to drive the 1977 Hesketh 308E that he used to take the FIA title. Lyons is seen by many as the odds-on favourite to claim the F5000 race at the NZFMR, which doubles as the penultimate round of the 2016/’17 SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 Trans-tasman Challenge.
With an astonishing race-win