NZ Classic Driver
GEORGE BEGG FESTIVAL 2023 RACING LIKE THE GOOD OLD DAYS
If you haven’t already heard the news, get ready – the George Begg Festival is coming back to Teretonga Park. Planning for the four-day event is already well underway, with tickets expected to go on sale soon.
Set to be even bigger and better than the inaugural event, held in February 2020, the George Begg Festival will be brought to the deep south by the team behind Invercargill’s Transport World.
The event promises plenty of action on and off the racetrack: scheduled to be held between March 20 and April 2, 2023, the George Begg Festival will bring the good vibes of the 1960s and 1970s to Invercargill for petrolheads, party people and families alike.
Businessman Scott O’Donnell – the man behind the concept for the George Begg Festival – says the long-term aim is to develop an iconic event similar to the United Kingdom’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
“That event is successful not just because it celebrates historic racing, which you don’t often get to see these days, but because it appeals to a really broad range of people,” O’Donnell says. “That’s what we’d like to replicate here – but with a homegrown, Kiwi flavour to it.”
Invercargill’s Teretonga Park, the southernmost-FIA recognised race circuit in the world, has been the scene of plenty of stellar racing; this time around though, the racing will be complemented by a nostalgic ambience that promises to transport guests back to “the good old days” of classic motorsport.
The festival is a tribute to racing car constructor George Begg, who created 18 vehicles between 1965 and 1974 in his humble workshop – dubbed the ‘Toyshop’ – in the small rural Southland township of Drummond. Begg, who decided to give racing car construction a crack after reading about it in a book, went on to partner successfully with several well-known names of the era including David Oxton, Barry Keen and Jim Murdoch.
The first-ever George Begg Festival was held in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit and the sizeable crowd at that event was treated to showings in the historic muscle and saloon car categories, as well as Formula Libre, vintage racing cars, sports and GT cars, plus many more.
2023 is shaping up to be just as noteworthy. “For our motorsport fans, the George Begg Festival is certainly going to deliver in terms of the on-track action,” O’Donnell says.
Classes set to be on show during the
2023 Festival include Historic Touring Cars (1982 – 2000), Pre-1978 Classic Saloons, Post-2000 Touring Cars (including V8 supercars), Formula Pacific, Historic Formula Ford and Formula Junior, and Pre2012 GT Cars (including, but not limited to, Porsche and Ferrari).
There will be plenty of party to be had off the track, too.
As well as classic racing, punters can expect to enjoy live music and entertainment, various food and beverage options, a spectacular gala dinner at Bill Richardson Transport World, and events such as a twilight barbecue and mystery car run around the region. A pedal car race and tractor race will add to the familyfriendly atmosphere as well.
“For people who’re attending and are perhaps not as devoted to motorsport, or have never been to a racing event like this, there’ll be just as much to take in and enjoy,” O’Donnell says. “The concept of the George Begg Festival is all about creating an event that people won’t want to miss, no matter who they are or what they’re interested in. We want this to be as big for the motorsport crowd as it is for complete newbies. We’d love it if people who’ve never been to a motorsport event come along and say afterwards, ‘I’ve got to do that again’. If we can hit that mark with both the car people, and the people who simply want to be part of the fun, then I think we’ll be able to create something really successful in the long-term. That’s a win for motorsport events like the George Begg Festival.
“We know that adding unmissable events to the calendar has really significant flow-on impacts for businesses region-wide, and the hope is certainly that the George Begg Festival adds to that,” O’Donnell says. “Invercargill has been really good at putting on events that create a city-wide or Southland-wide buzz, like the Bluff Oyster Festival and the Burt Munro Challenge. Those events draw people in from all over, and we hope the George Begg Festival develops a reputation for being a must-do event as well.”
For those for whom the racing is the biggest drawcard, the Transport World team has even put together a travel itinerary for motorsport enthusiasts. Starting in Christchurch and winding its way south through the Waitaki District, Dunedin, and The Catlins before arriving in Invercargill for the George Begg Festival, the Southern Wheels itinerary then works its way through Fiordland and Queenstown before drawing to a close in time for Wheels at Wānaka.
The trip can be self-guided, but for petrolheads there’s also the option of a more formalised tour that includes exclusive access to some of the south’s well-known private collections, as well as the opportunity to take in guided excursions courtesy of local vintage car clubs.
“The South Island is home to some really fascinating collections that appeal to people keen on wheels, but it’s not every day the general public gets to access them,” O’Donnell says.
“Before it opened to the public, Bill Richardson Transport World was a private collection that was only accessible by appointment, so we’re well-placed to know that there is a real appetite amongst the public, particularly the motorsport community, to see the treasures that people have gathered and restored. It really is a privilege to be able to view some of these collections tucked away in people’s garages and sheds, and we’re really grateful to the owners who have agreed to be part of what we are trying to achieve. For motoring fans, this really is a bucket-list opportunity,” he says.
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