You couldn’t miss Glen Raymond and his distinctive 4x4 Tomcat at this year’s Leadfoot Festival. Ashley Lucas chronicles the event and Glen’s weekend.
Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Festival is not something you would normally associate with 4WD but for the 2017 there was a 4WD vehicle competing for the first time in the form of Glen and Samantha Raymond’s UK-built Tomcat, recently fully certified for road use. The Leadfoot Festival is Rod and Shelley Millen’s vision of featuring local and international motorsport legends, great competitors and iconic race cars. A South Pacific version of England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed it was first held on the Millens’ 48 hectare property at Hahei in 2011 to celebrate Rod’s 60th Birthday. The ‘ track’ is the Millens’ 1.6 km driveway and to attend is by invite only and once Rod and Shelly Millen had received details of the Tomcat Racer an invitation was duly received.
New Zealanders in general have a passion for vehicles and the Leadfoot has a broad appeal for most petrolheads where old 1915 race cars can be seen along with the latest in road, track and rally cars. During the weekend I met up with quite a few fellow four wheel drivers, including trials and winch challenge competitors from various parts of NZ. The format of the event is very simple; socialise and have fun, with visitors encouraged to wander around the pit area to meet the drivers and look over the vehicles, including those on display. Amongst the visiting international drivers this year were Al Unser Jr, Ernie Nagamatsu, father and son Jimmy and Alister McRae, and Tanner Foust. They, in turn, were up against our own Greg Murphy, Allan Woolf, Andrew Hawkeswood, along with drifting’s ( Mad) Mike Whiddett and ( Fanga) Dan Woolhouse.
The pit allocation for the Tomcat was next to Rod Millen’s NZ Rally championship winning 1973 Mazda RX3 meaning it was in very good company. All 100 plus competitors were put into groups which were all a mixture from various types of motorsport which meant you could have a 1930s car tackle the hill climb followed by a drifter burning rubber all the way, followed by a motorbike. Each competitor would get three runs up the hay bale-lined track Saturday and Sunday. The Tomcat was still in its off-road race set up as it came from the UK and had been used at the NZ1000 and Woodhill 100 off-road races. There had been no special changes to the suspension and shocks for the tarmac event, it was still running on the 16-inch BFG All Terrain tyres and still had the Trutrac torque biasing rear differential. Glen was also a novice to tarmac racing as much as the Tomcat was. The bright orange Tomcat proved a very popular vehicle, right from its arrival, amongst competitors and visitors alike due to its unique body
styling and front end based on a Defender. The body is all fibreglass and the TVR engine was on tune as it echoed around the property and through the trees while the t yres complained at every corner. For his first run Glen put up a time of 73.07 followed by a 72.28 and was to comment he had never had the tail hanging out on a 4WD on tarmac before.
Mike Whiddett was racing both his drift Mazda SP3 RX8 as well as his recently acquired short course Superlite race truck which is based on a Mazda RX8 13B and in t ypical Mad Mike style, put on a real show when he took it ‘off- road’ and got some serious air on each run. Polaris had a presence at the Leadfoot, giving people rides over the back in a small purpose- built off- road track. Their local ‘ works’ driver, Ben Thomasen, was also there racing the latest Polaris Razor XP1000 turbo which had adjustments to suspension and smaller road orientated t yres for the event. However Ben must have though the Polaris was a ‘ farm’ model as he set about moving hay bales around the course when he went wide and got a bale between the front wheels and continued to push it up the hill. By the end of the day Alister
McRae had set the fastest time so far with a 49.99 in the specially prepared Subaru, with Rod Millen at 53.16 in his 1973 Mazda RX3 in which he became three-time NZ rally champion between 1975-1977. Once the racing stops at 6.00pm everyone is encouraged to socialise at the Leadfoot saloon and where food vendors stayed on until 9.00pm. It is a really nice way to relax and enjoy a beer or wine after such a fantastic day. And yes even Rod and Shelley Millen mingled and socialised along with the overseas visitors, competitors and teams. Sunday would be another hot fine day with the racing underway at 8.00am there was still overnight dew on the track in places which made it interesting for the first group. As Glen and the Tomcat completed each run up the hill, the time was always an improvement as Glen got to know the track and the Tomcat better.
Best of show
As the Tomcat lined up with the group for the final run on Sunday, Glen was advised that they were in the Top 10 for Best In Show up against the likes of Al Unser Jr in the 1915 Stutz, Ernie Nagamatsu in Old Yeller and Fanga Dan in his ex-NZ Police supercharged Holden Commodore. Rod Millen managed to pull something out on his last run to win the pre 1975 group while Alister McRae couldn’t quite match his time from Saturday, or even the record time, but was still good enough to hold off Sloan Cox for the overall win. Leadfoot is a unique festival and something different on the motorsport calendar with a wide range of different vehicles from very different segments of motorsport and racing history to keep any member of the family entertained. While Glen and Samantha initially envisaged it being a one-time experience, if an invite should come their way again for 2018, they and the Tomcat will be back again for sure.
Glen Raymond & Tomcat heading up the Millen ‘driveway’ at Hahei.
Entry is by invite only.
Drifter ‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse also entertained.
Ben Thomasen ‘baling’ in his Polaris race UTV.
Eclectic entry included everything from modern race truck…
… to vintage and veteran.
Glen and Tom.