Tony Quinn gives us the low-down on his vision for Hampton Downs
Quinn excited by Hampton Downs’ potential to complement Highlands
Tony Quinn, the owner of Highlands Motorsport Park, is excited about seeing the full potential of his recently-acquired Hampton Downs facility realised over the next 16 months, and how it will complement his existing motorsport venue in Central Otago.
Quinn confirms that the purchase of the north Waikato race track and its surrounding 150 hectares was completed on 2 June as scheduled and is already progressing plans to undertake a number of projects which will see the facility completed as per its original plans and re-launched with a major international event in November 2016.
The image shows Hampton Downs’ co-founder Tony Roberts (left) with new owner Tony Quinn.
“I’ve been sharing some of my plans with Hampton’s managing director Tony Roberts, operations manager Gary Stirling, and business and marketing manager Claire Gullidge, who are all staying in their existing roles for at least six months,” Quinn says. “What I’ve asked them to do over the next week or so is write down all the things we should be doing that will make a practical benefit to the park, its operation, and look and feel, so we can get all these things going.”
Quinn then intends to have tender documents produced fairly quickly for the bigger projects, such as the construction of corporate suites and a control tower above the pit-lane garages, a go-kart track, a second skid pan and a track extension which will add a kilometre to the existing 2.8km layout, so quotes can be obtained and contracts issued over the winter for work to start in spring.
“There are four or five different projects which can all be tackled by different contractors at the same time without affecting the day-to-day track operation. There’ll be a flurry of activity when spring sets in and I expect a fair bit of finished work by Christmas and into early New Year.
“There are a couple of important things I want people to be clear on. Firstly, I don’t want people to confuse Hampton Downs with Highlands. Highlands is a totally separate business model to Hampton’s – Highlands is a tourist venue that caters to tourists year round with a small number of high profile motorsport events each year. Hampton Downs is an absolute flat-out race track. It’s used 330 days of the year for racing, corporate days, testing and the like. That will continue.
“Secondly, the track is absolutely open for business now and will continue to be; nothing’s going to change. Anyone that’s got a booking now, that’s fine. All the projects we’re doing are outside the normal day-to-day operation of the track, but people will start to see the new facilities being completed and used as we head into next year and the GT extravaganza we have planned as the park’s re-launch in November 2016.”
Quinn stresses his desire to complete Hampton Downs the way it was originally intended to create a world-class motorsport park that complements Highlands.
“I was excited, like everyone else, when Hampton Downs was first talked about and Chris Watson and Tony Roberts embarked on this ambitious plan to build a fantastic facility on the outskirts of Auckland, in the rolling hills of North Waikato. It seemed like an idyllic project within easy reach of Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton. I want to finish it properly and it’s going to be an exciting project.”
“In about 16 months’ time it’s going to be a truly fantastic facility to visit and there’s no doubt that Hampton Downs and Highlands are going to be the two best tracks in New Zealand. If we have any international categories here, it would be sensible to expose them to fans at both Hampton and Highlands.
“Already we’ve told our Highlands’ members that they are most welcome to use Hampton Downs as one of their membership privileges, and we will also introduce memberships at Hampton Downs that will give members certain privileges including access to a pretty fancy members’ lounge where members and their partners can mix and mingle and enjoy the premier status of being a member.
“There’s another thing to remember – Claire has a great saying that Hampton Downs is a friendly track. Everyone’s got different things that they want to do at the circuit, and the role of Hampton’s staff and the facility itself is be friendly and accommodate what people want to do.
“We just ran a competition in Australia amongst our 900 staff asking them to give us some ideas what we should do with some of the facilities – it was amazing, we got about 40 fantastic ideas that we’re now working on. We want to listen to people’s suggestions for Hampton Downs, so what we’re saying to people and to staff tell us what you think would be a good idea, what would work, if it’s practical and doable, we’ll do it.”
When Maserati plans a dealership, such as the one that opened a few months ago at Artamon in Sydney, the result has to be something special. Something that embodies a key attribute of the brand: Italian-ness.
So architects are specially flown in and, according to local Maserati boss Glen Sealey, they can be quite fussy. In Italian.
“They are very particular about the tiles, the lighting, all the furniture must come from Italy,” he says.
The result, according to Sealey, is so impressive it’s more than a luxury car showroom; it could be a retail outlet for any high-end product.
A taste of Italy is one of a handful of qualities Maserati believes can lure car buyers away from familiar German menus. Performance, design, craftsmanship and exclusivity are also core ingredients.
Maserati has redefined itself during the past two years and is in the middle phase of a rapid deployment program that has seen it take the Quattroporte into its next generation and revive its Ghibli badge for a large sedan. That duo has already multiplied sales by a factor of six during the past three years.
Later this year it adds an SUV called Levante, due in Australia next year, then a sports car based on the Alfieri — the standout concept from last year’s Geneva motor show. By the time it’s ready with a replacement for its Granturismo large coupe, it expects to be selling 75,000 cars a year.
The Granturismo and its convertible variant, the Grancabrio, will have been around for a decade by then, although there’s “still nothing in the market quite like them”, Sealey says.
The Australasian import operation has a fresh Granturismo variant to keep buyers interested.
The MC Sportline gets the same 338kW V8 as the standard car but adds a special suspension setup plus styling cues from the racing Granturismo, including 20-inch alloys, bonnet vents and acres of carbon fibre. There are two transmissions available: an automated manual or six-speed automatic, which is fitted to the car I’m about to drive.
It’s one of a six-car fleet at Hampton Downs racetrack, just out of Auckland, New Zealand, worth a total of $1.7 million. I’ll be sampling all of them as part of a drive-the-range day.
Across Australasia, Maserati puts on five to 10 such days a year. Owners and prospective owners get to sample all the brand’s models and get coaching from a team of instructors on the art of getting around a circuit quickly.
You can also do similar courses in Italy, at the Autodrome in Varano de’Melegari near Parma. Yes, Maserati will even teach you to drive like an Italian.
Normally, I would envy a Maserati owner but the group here yesterday drove through a torrential downpour. Today, the weather holds for our morning session.
Racer and chief instructor Renato Loberto introduces his team and explains how a typical day runs.
The program starts with three exercises designed to teach the sort of skills required for laps.
The first uses the main straight for braking exercises from different speeds comparable to those you would find on ordinary roads.
Customers learn about braking times and distances, and experience the pedal pulse of an anti-lock brake system being activated. In everyday driving, that’s not something you’ll feel unless you do an emergency stop.
Then they learn how to threshold-brake up to the point where ABS is about to kick in. That’s what they need for the track.
Next is a cornering exercise through turns two, three and four. “It’s designed to give an appreciation of the skills needed later on, and about vision — look through the corner, look for the apex,” says Loberto.
Finally, there’s a skid pan session to experience stability control and how it works. Then they turn it off altogether. That brings smiles to faces.
In the afternoon it’s on to the track for a series of laps in each car. Luckily for the assembled media, it’s straight on to the track. By the afternoon, it is pouring again.
Hampton Downs is a small but beautifully formed circuit set in a valley, with a six technical turns that flow nicely into one another and lots of elevation changes.
I’ve driven here once before, briefly, but realise that I’ve never driven a Maserati on a track. Ever. I wonder whether there’s a reason for that. These are big, heavy cars. Tracks expose shortcomings that normal road driving conceals.
The car I’m in first, the Granturismo, is beginning to show its age in the look of its interior and, especially, its antiquated control system. Game Boys have better graphics.
That’s not an issue on the track, of course, and happily the Granturismo surprises with the balance of its responses, progressive steering and sweet turn-in.
It feels very track-capable for something that weighs close to 2 tonnes and quick enough — with a sub-five second time to 100km/h — for this tight circuit.
Best of all, as most brands downsize and fit turbochargers, its 4.7-litre Ferrari-built V8 is still naturally aspirated and sounds fabulous.
The big brakes can rein in a Granturismo from 100km/h in 35m. But they must work hard against the sheer mass and if these cars have a track weakness, brakes would be it. You would want to upgrade for an endurance event.
So after a few laps it’s into the pits to swap cars and it’s my turn in the convertible Grancabrio.
On a road, this large four-seat open-top impresses with its uncompromised ability and the fact that translates undiluted to the track is more impressive still. I was expecting the car to be a wobbly mess because of the lost roof, but there’s little between it and the coupe.
After a dozen laps, I’m getting familiar with the track and the instructors are spot-on, helping with the right lines, braking distances and the best way through a corner. It’s an easygoing way to learn.
My next car is a Quattroporte and it’s the biggest of the lot. Its turbocharged 390kW 3.8-litre V8 represents the new breed of engine and I’m expecting that to be a disappointment as well.
No question, the sound misses something, but it does have some charm of its own and throttle response — typically a weakness of turbo units — is better than I expect.
With the benefit of its more recent development, it even drives better than the coupe, turning into corners more crisply and quickly. Rather than lumpy and heavy, it’s faster and grippier.
The smaller Ghibli, even with its less engaging V6, is lighter on its feet still.
The sequence of cars showed them off to their best advantage but I’m still amazed at how track-happy they feel. They are more fun than large luxury cars have any right to be. And there’s something very Italian about that.
SpeedSport Scholarship winner Brook Reeve won the Formula First Rookie title at Hampton Downs with one round remaining. pic: Geoff Ridder
Brook Reeve won the New Zealand Formula First Rookie championship with one round remaining after taking an unassailable points lead at Hampton Downs.
The 17-year-old teenager from Blenheim continued to notch up more podium placings at the south Auckland race track to add to a season that has so far seen him finish in the top three on nine occasions.
Reeve is the first driver in the 14-year history of the SpeedSport Scholarship program to win the Rookie title at the penultimate round.
“Only two of our Scholarship drivers haven’t won the Rookie title but no-one has won it before the last round of the season,” said co-founder Dennis Martin.
Driving for Martin’s Sabre Motorsport team, Reeve is 247 points clear of rival Elliot Andrew in the Rookie stakes and can not be beaten with the final round still to be contested at Taupo over Easter weekend.
At Hampton Downs, Reeve crossed the finish line 2nd in the first race but was later given a 10-second penalty for crossing a white line on the track. However he ended the weekend’s racing with two 3rd placings.
“The team has given me a very good car and I was close to getting another race win,” said Reeve.
“Racing three and four [cars] wide is pretty exciting stuff and this very close racing is really valuable in developing my racing career.
“I’d love to get at least one more win before the season ends,” he added.
Not only is Reeve a new driver to the Formula First class, he is also in his rookie year of motor racing. His move from racing karts to cars came after winning the annual SpeedSport Scholarship last May
Apart from winning a drive in the New Zealand Formula First championship, Reeve also won a personalised race suit, boots and racing gloves from Chicane.
2001 Nic Jordan
2002 Joshua Hart
2003 Mark Russ
2004 Shane van Gisbergen
2005 Andrew Waite
2006 Alastair Wootten
2007 Richie Stanaway
2008 Aaron Hodgson
2009 Nick Cassidy
2010 Hayden Pedersen
2011 Malcolm Finch
2012 Aaron Marr
2013 James Webb
2014 Brook Reeve
Rnd 1: Taupo 25-26 October
Rnd 2: Pukekohe 16 November
Rnd 3: Pukekohe 6-7 December
Rnd 4: Hampton Downs 31 Jan-1 Februray
Rnd 5: Manfeild 14-15 February (NZGP meeting)
Rnd 6: Manfeild 21-22 February
Rnd 7: Hampton Downs 21-22 March
Rnd 8: Taupo 4-5 April
French fashion and flair will be adding a helping of 'chic' to the forthcoming annual Roycroft vintage car meeting at Hampton Downs on March 14 and 15.
Motorsport once again steps more than half a century back in time at the 4th Roycroft Vintage race meeting and the French theme will be celebrated through displays and race participation by famous French car marques such as Darracq, Delage, Citroen and Renault. Also lined up is, of course, the famous Roycroft Bugatti - itself a French masterpiece.
A Continental themed evening at the Hamptons on the Saturday evening will include wine and platters and three speakers from the world of motorcycling. And all of those taking part of coming along to spectate are being encouraged to dress in 1960s period costume in a French style to add to the fun and the atmosphere.
Four-time Grand Prix motorcycle road racing World Champion and a 19-time New Zealand national champion Hugh Anderson MBE heads the list of speakers. The two-time Isle of Man TT winner will be joined by Ken McIntosh, the world renowned tuner and authority on Norton motorcycles and Waitemate icon Les Harris, famous for his exploits on his 175 BSA Bantam.
Also confirmed for the event is entry by the Northland Vintage Car Club of Whangarei with their 1912 S.C.A.R 1 - one of only six complete machines. The French S.C.A.R (Societé de Construction Automobiles de Reims) was imported new from Reims in 1913 by Henry Bray, the owner of the Grand Hotel in Auckland. The car will be a major feature of the French-themed display.
"If the track action wasn't enough, these are three great speakers and the evening event will be a great opportunity not only to sample some French wine and food, but also sample some of the historic and amazing moments from three motorcycling legends and hear about their life-long passion for their sport and for motorcycling in general," explained Diane Humphreys of the Waitemata Branch of the Vintage Car Club of New Zealand.
Action on the track on both days includes grids of both Pre-War and Pre-1960 Vintage sports cars, Historic single seaters, Sports Racing cars and Classic Saloon/ GTs. These will be complemented with on-track demonstrations featuring vintage pre-1963 motorcycles.
Hampton Down’s pavilion will host a live band and a collection of trade stands with antiques, vintage clothing, books, potery and art work.
And reflecting budgets of yesteryear, tickets are ticket packages are extremely competitively priced. Pre-1970 cars with two people can gain access for just $20.00 (any additional passengers $20 each) includes special parking for period cars infield. A Saturday or Sunday pass is just $20, whilst a weekend pass is just $30 and all children under 12 go free.
For more information go to www.roycroftvintagefestival.co.nz
Christchurch bothers James (left) and Alastair Hoogenboezem, who have taken turns to race their identical Suzuki GSX-R600 bikes to victory in every 600 Supersport class race this season.
They are brothers and they are sporting rivals, but Alastair and James Hoogenboezem know only one of them can be champion this season.
The two Christchurch men have, between them, won every single race in the 600cc Supersport class at this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships and, as it stands now, one or the other of them will be crowned national champion for the first time at the fourth and final round of the series at Taupo this coming weekend.
The younger of the two sibling rivals, 22-year-old Alastair, is in the best position to win the title after he scored another hat-trick of wins at the third round of four at Hampton Downs, near Huntly, on Sunday.
He is now a massive 61 points ahead of his 24-year-old brother James, with only 75 points still available, at the final round at Taupo in just a few days' time.
Third in the standings after Hampton Downs is fellow Canterbury rider Cameron Hudson, but he is another 25.5 points further back and it would take a small miracle if he is to overtake James Hoogenboezem this coming weekend.
Whatever the outcome, it could be history in the making with this the first time in national superbike history that two brothers have finished 1-2 in the championships and, if their race winning form continues, it will also be the first time two brothers have won every race.
"I think I only need to finish fifth or better in the first race at Taupo to clinch the title," said Alastair Hoogenboezem.
"James is the only rider who could beat me for the title, so first or second is already in the bag for me.
"If the racing looks scrappy in the first race at Taupo, I'll ease off and settle for a top-five finish, but I really do want to be up front for my fans, family and sponsors. It's not a good look to be just cruising at the back.
"I knew I was fast enough to win this season, but you never know what luck might do too and you can never rule out the other riders like Cameron (Hudson), Rhys Holmes or Toby Summers. They are all very fast riders."
Meanwhile, in the Superbike class, defending national champion Dennis Charlett had a mixed bag of a weekend, crashing out during Saturday's practise session and forced to scavenge parts to get his Suzuki GSX-R1000 back out on the track for the racing that followed.
Christchurch's Charlett then finished an unaccustomed fifth overall for the weekend, but this was still enough for him to keep his spot on top of the championship standings as his main rival, fellow Suzuki star Jaden Hassan, from Auckland, crashed out of the final race of the weekend.
Hamilton's Nick Cole won the day but, because this was his only appearance in the series so far this season, he is not a title contender.
Charlett now leads Hassan by five points as they head to Taupo's finale, while another Christchurch rider, James Smith, is third overall, 33 points behind Hassan.
Tom Alexander takes home Toyota 86 championship for 2015
9:34 PM Sunday Mar 1, 2015
Kiwi Tom Alexander has secured the 2015 Toyota Finance 86 Championship at Hampton Downs. Photo / Supplied
Tom Alexander of Bombay has won New Zealand's leading one-make championship, wresting the title away from Wellingtonian Jamie McNee.
This weekend's Toyota Festival at Hampton Downs in the northern Waikato hosted the 2015 Toyota Finance 86 Championship final for the first time.
Going into the three-race weekend Alexander, McNee and Ash Blewett all had strong prospects of taking the title.
Consistent form through recent rounds in the South Island and at Manfeild had put Alexander (20) in the championship lead. He was 81 points ahead of McNee, was a further 29 points adrift.
Victory in Saturday's race extended his lead over McNee, who finished second. Ash Blewett was left wondering what he had to do to win a race after puncturing a tyre while leading.
Then in this morning's race McNee won, banking a valuable 75 points - but Alexander was a close second, effectively putting the championship out of reach.
The leading three - McNee, Alexander and Blewett - had formed a high speed 'draft' around the circuit, with all three covered by less than a second at race end.
The 15-lap afternoon race sealed Alexander's championship title, though not without startline drama after he selected third gear instead of first for the race start and was swamped by the field, ending up sixth at the end of lap one.
A determined fight back ensured, Alexander passing each driver cleanly in turn until he was second behind McNee. He then chased the leader down, his car improving lap by lap as it reached optimum race weight and the tyres were put to work.
"I was much faster through turns 2 and 3 and though the car was slower going into the final right hander I was getting great drive there for the run up to the start-finish. Lap after lap I was closer and closer to Jamie and then I had him," Alexander said afterward.
The pair were side by side for most of the lap as each fought to take and hold the lead in a thrilling duel. Eventually, Alexander went side by side into the hairpin and stayed with McNee down the next straight and into the final corner of the lap. Alexander's car had the advantageous inside line into the corner and the two cars made contact. McNee found himself spinning off the track, Alexander and the leading bunch disappearing up the hill.
Ashley Blewett had a momentary peep at the lead, but tucked in behind Alexander to chase him to the finish. Callum Quin was a strong-finishing third, while McNee had come back from P6 to be fourth.
But the win - and the championship - belonged to a delighted and excited Tom Alexander.
"I've wanted to win the championship since we first heard about it. This is amazing," he said afterward.
Alexander, 20, is a protégé of experienced racer Kenny Smith, who has shaped the careers of many aspiring young Kiwi race drivers. He is hoping to raise funds for a next step into New Zealand's premier single-seater championship, the Toyota Racing Series.
This Lexus LFA supercar is number 496 of just 500 built and is on loan from Lexus Singapore. Photo / Supplied
I'm lucky to sample some of the best cars that make it to our shores, and 2015 has started off with a bang with some incredibly rare and expensive cars.
While we mainly focus on driving on the road, where let's face it, the majority of cars spend their time, some cars just can't be understood until you hit the racetrack to truly appreciate what they're capable of.
Enter the Lexus LFA.
With only two of the 500 examples of the LFA ever imported to New Zealand, Toyota and Lexus New Zealand borrowed LFA #496/500 from owners, Lexus Singapore, for a couple of months to display and demonstrate the Lexus supercar during the Toyota 86 Championship series.
Unlike other supercars that feature wide carbon-fibre tubs that make getting in and out an experience in itself, the Lexus is much more restrained with distinctly Japanese DNA dictating form following function, which thankfully makes getting in and out of the LFA much more like an everyday car.
Being hand built by a workforce of only 175, the LFA is an impressive piece of kit.
A wide white wedge that looks both menacing and beautiful at the same time.
Sam MacNeill from Toyota New Zealand, is the only person lucky enough to drive the LFA 496 while it resides on our shores.
"It was a bit of right place right time" MacNeill says in regards to securing the drive of the LFA.
"I'd heard a bit of a rumour that it was coming out and with my previous involvement with the racing and already being at the racing meetings anyway, I just put my hand up and said 'how about me?'"
"There was some criteria in terms of insurance and things like that, I had to have an international race licence which fortunately I had from my Toyota Racing Series days so I got the call up" Said MacNeill
Sitting inside there is notably and absence of any form of cup holder as a reader pointed out on Driven's Facebook page, a subtle hint at what the LFA wasn't built for Grand Touring down highways, this is a drivers car.
Sure it is one of the most useable daily supercars you can possibly find, but under the carbon-fibre body is an 4.8-litre V10 built in the factory that once built Toyota's Formula One engines, so you know this supercar has the pedigree to take it to the track and deliver.
"The LFA is neatral in terms of its balance, the only thing that holds it back is its on road tyres." Says MacNeill.
"It's halfway between a track car and a race car"
The hand built V10 is just waiting to scream its way to the redline, which reputedly happens in 6/10ths of a second.
As we make our way to the track a feeling of anticipation takes over me.
This is very different to the last car I was lucky enough to be on track with Sam in and every bone in my body can feel it.
Lexus LFA in car footage
Mathieu Day reacts to the Lexus LFA
As we exit the pit lane and enter the track proper, Sam jumps on the throttle and we're off for the best two laps of Hampton Downs I've ever had.
As we exit turn two all I can blurt out is "wow". It really is a much different experience to riding in a supercar on public roads. It is much, much better.
Sure I'm not driving, but the experience of sitting in a rare, $1 million plus Lexus going full tilt around my local race track is something I'm not going to forget
And the highlight for the LFA's kiwi driver?
"When I go away from the track after driving it the thing that just keeps coming back into my mind is the noise, that V10 screaming is just unbelieveable."
That sums it up nicely. It may not have cup holders, but the LFA needs to be heard at full chap to be truly appreciated.
This example won't be in the country much longer, with its final appearances slated for the final two rounds of the Toyota Finance 86 Championship. If you're anywhere near it's at the TRS rounds this weekend (Taupo Feb 7-8) and at the Grand Prix (Manfeild Feb 14-15) next weekend. It's definitely worth an up close look.
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A few tips from Kiwi ace Shane Van Gisbergen have Simon Evans finally eyeing his first New Zealand motor racing championship.
The 24-year-old Aucklander effectively leads the 2014-15 BNT NZ SuperTourers by more than 100 points as he heads into this weekend's fourth round of the championship at Hampton Downs and will certainly be hard to beat from here.
He was competitive in Formula Ford, NZV8s and Porsche GT3s, but a title has eluded him thus far and he's had to operate in the shadow of brother Mitch, the former GP3 champion now making his mark in GP2.
A successful spell sharing the wheel with Van Gisbergen last year seems to have given Evans a new edge to his smooth style.
The good friends won the three-round endurance series that began the overall championship, claiming six of the nine races.
Evans was very close to the hot pace set by Van Gisbergen, who finished second in last year's V8 Supercar championship.
Evans is feeling confident as he prepares for the Rush Security Waikato 250, the first of the four sprint-race meetings that will conclude the championship, and he likes the Hampton Downs circuit.
"At the endurance meeting there I was only one or two tenths of a second off Shane's times, which isn't bad considering the amount of racing he's done," Evans said.
"I certainly learnt from Shane during those meetings, though I can't point to any one thing that stands out; it was a lot of little things.
"One was looking after the tyres – one race was 70 laps on the same set of tyres – so I saw what Shane was doing and learnt from that."
"One important thing is that you have to be really smooth with the SuperTourers, and I have concentrated on that."
With two meetings in the South Island, at Ruapuna and Timaru in March, Evans likes the feel fo the calendar.
"I really rate Ruapuna," Evans says. "I scored my first ever car-racing win there, in Formula Ford, so it's a special track for me. It's a technical track because a lot of the corners flow together and if you run wide at one corner it messes you up for the next ones.
"The SuperTourers have never run at Timaru. We just get two practice sessions so we don't have much time to find the best setup for the track."
This weekend's two-day event will be headlined by the Toyota Racing Series who compete for the NZ Motor Cup – one of the most prestigious trophies in New Zealand motorsport featuring some of the worlds greatest young drivers.
Support classes include Porches', Formula First, Supermini, Ssangyong Racing Series, Wil Sport Hyosung Cup (Motorbikes) and Sportscars.
Stuff.co.nz will have live streaming of the NZ SuperTourers at Hampton Downs this weekend. Check back on the site at the times below for race coverage.
Old Dog and Young Pup worthy opponents, writes Andy McGechan
Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R1000) is clinging on to the No1 position in the superbike class. Picture / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Last year's champion is still in the No1 position in the national superbike class rankings but could well be toppled.
The NZ Superbike Championships are at the halfway stage and a major dogfight is raging between the defending champion and a young pretender to the throne.
The "grizzled old dog" is 46-year-old Christchurch man Dennis Charlett and the "young pup" who is challenging him for the position of superbike pack leader is Auckland 20-year-old Jaden Hassan.
Just seven points separate these two at the top of the premier bike division after the second of four rounds of the series at Timaru. That is virtually nothing with plenty of points still there for the taking.
The closeness and ferocity of the battle mean the title could go anywhere, with other riders such as Christchurch's James Smith, Wellington's Sloan Frost and possibly even visiting Australian Linden Magee also looming as title contenders.
Charlett had enjoyed a fantastic opening round at Ruapuna, Christchurch, on January 11, but it was a different story for the Suzuki ace at Timaru's Levels Raceway a week later as fellow Suzuki rider Hassan mounted an attack.
Hassan qualified his Suzuki GSX-R1000 fastest at the Levels circuit and then proceeded to score an impressive hat-trick of wins, elevating him from third - and a distant 40 points behind Charlett - to second.
In contrast, Charlett finished 3-3-5 in his three outings at Levels.
Jaden Hassan (Suzuki GSX-R1000) has taken huge chunks out of the defending champion's superbike class lead.
Hassan, from Westmere, had been expected to be one of the superbike class frontrunners this season after his scintillating performances in the pre-season Suzuki Series, but nobody expected such a rapid resurrection.
"I'm pretty stoked with how things have turned out now," said Hassan.
"I was pretty disappointed after last weekend, so to come out on top this weekend is a great feeling.
"I'll have a couple of weekends off now and then do some testing to get set for the next round at Hampton Downs. We have a six-week break now, before wrapping it up with two rounds back-to-back.
"This is the best South Island racing experience I have had. It was good for me to be as quick as Dennis on his South Island tracks and now he'll come north to hopefully be chasing me on the North Island tracks. That's the plan anyway."
Now third in the superbike standings is Smith (Honda CBR1000RR), eight points behind Hassan, with Frost (Suzuki GSX-R1000) in fourth spot in the championship chase and transtasman visitor Magee (BMW S1000RR) rounding out the top five.
Meanwhile, in the 600cc Supersport class, Christchurch brothers James and Alastair Hoogenboezem lead the way on their identical Suzuki GSX-R600 bikes.
James led the class after the opening round but Alastair came on strong at Levels, taking pole position in qualifying and then scoring a lap record on his way to winning all three races at Levels.
James crashed in one of his races but recovered to finish 13th. He is just 16 points behind his brother.
Christchurch's Cameron Hudson (Yamaha R6) remains third overall in the class, 17.5 points behind James Hoogenboezem, with Kaitikati's Rhys Holmes (Yamaha R6) and Manukau's Toby Summers (Yamaha R6) rounding out the top five.
Leaders in the other classes after round two are Orewa's Avalon Biddle (Superlites); Whangamata's Ben Rosendale (Pro Twins); Blenheim's Tim McArthur (250cc production); Christchurch's Sam Davison (125 GP) and Auckland pair Adam Unsworth and Stu Dawe (sidecars).
Round three is set for Hampton Downs on March 7-8, with the fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 14-15.
At next weekend's third round of the Toyota Racing Series at Hampton Downs, fans will see a former two-time series champion back in action - but not in a TRS car.
GP2 ace Mitch Evans is belting up in a tin top for the first time in his racing career for a yahoo in the NZ SuperTourers category.
Evans recently turned a few laps in his brother Simon's Smeg racing machine and found the experience "interesting".
"Dad called me up and asked if I wanted to have a one-off go in a V8 if he could get a car and some backing," said Evans. "I thought, why not? It'll either go well or I'll get my arse kicked. It'll be good to race against Simon again because it's been a few years since we've been on the track together."
Evans has also eyed single seaters and finished a creditable fourth in last year's GP2 championship. Jumping into a tin top may come as a shock, as the two cars couldn't be more different.
"A V8 is pretty basic compared to a GP2 car and drives a lot more lazily. They are a lot heavier but at least I won't have to worry about rubbing wheels."
It wouldn't be a huge surprise if Evans, given his pedigree, put the frighteners up a few of the V8 pilots. Eric Thompson
Kiwi Clark Proctor (March 73A/1 #57) is the 2014/15 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series points leader heading into the third round at the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival meeting at Hampton Downs.
Early season pace-setter Clark Proctor (March 73A/1) and three-time champion Ken Smith (Lola T332) look set to star in the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at the two Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival motor racing meetings at Hampton Downs over the next two weekends.
Formula 5000 is the featured category and '70s F5000 and F1 ace Howden Ganley the feature driver at the meetings which this season host the first two domestic rounds of this season's MSC F5000 Tasman Cup .
High-profile Kiwi motorsport all-rounder Proctor, who won races and finished second overall in his first full season in the MSC series in 2013, was the top-performing Kiwi at the first two rounds of this season's series in Australia late last year and says he is looking forward to carrying the pace he showed at Sandown and Sydney Motorsport Park to Hampton Downs.
"While I will be approaching each meeting the way I always do, with the utmost respect for my fellow competitors, I'll certainly be doing the best I can possibly can," Proctor said this week. "Obviously we have had a good start to the season so the plan now is to have a few more good meetings on this side of the Tasman, hopefully with no mechanical damage."
For the past two years series young gun Michael Lyons has proved to be the driver to beat at the two NZ Festival meetings, though last year it was series super-vet Ken Smith who claimed pole position and led the first race at the first Hampton Downs meeting until he blew an engine.
Proctor rates both Smith and fellow series regular and two-time MSC champ Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin as likely threats this and next weekend, though with 27-strong grids for the MSC races he says there could be 'six or seven other guys' in the leading bunch.
Proctor and Kiwi racing great Ken Smith (Lola T332 #11, above) are expected to set the pace in the MSC series races at the meeting.
Ken Smith, meanwhile, is looking forward to his first races back in his ex-Danny Ongais Lola T332, after the engine damage sustained at the first NZ Festival round last year ended his 13/14 MSC season early.
Having missed the first two rounds of this season's MSC series across the Tasman, another series title is a long-shot for the 73-year-old, in his 57th consecutive year of national level single-seater racing. But pole positions, race wins and lap records are there for the taking - particularly at Hampton Downs.
Lyons is the current F5000 - and outright - lap record holder at Hampton Downs thanks to the 59.483s time he set in the second race at the second NZ Festival meeting last year. But before his car's engine blew at the first round Smith claimed pole position with a time of 59.445.
Only times set in a race can be classed as lap record but the qualifying time certainly shows what Smith and the T332 Lola are capable of this and next weekend.
MSC series regulars from this side of the Tasman will be joined this weekend and next by Australian series front-runners Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and Paul Brennan (Lola T330). And debuting long-awaited new cars will be the two men behind the Hampton Downs development, Tony Roberts and Chris Watson.
This time Roberts will be behind the wheel of a McLaren M10B, Watson a Gardos, the latter a McLaren M18-based car built in 1973 in Australia.
Finally, as well as the 26 F5000 cars entered for the three MSC series races each weekend (2 x 8-lap & 1 x 15 lap) British driver Robs Lamplough will drive the V12-engined ex Howden Ganley BRM P180-02 Formula 1 car and there will be as many as 20 other Formula 5000 cars at the track being demonstrated or on display.
Points after Rnd 2 of 6
1. Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) - 236 points
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) - 218
3. Peter Brennan (Lola T330) - 154
4. Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) - 150
5. Russell Greer (Lola T332) - 141
6. Ian Clements (Lola T332) - 130
7. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) - 129
8. Dave Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) - 121
9. David Banks (Talon MR1) - 113
10. Paul Lewis (Matich A50) - 87
Racer Jono Lester takes writer for a spin in his Ferrari 458 GT3 around Hampton Downs.
"Can't think of a better way to spend a Thursday," says Jono Lester as I'm folded into the passenger seat of his Ferrari 458 GT3.
There are worse ways to kill time than being driven around a racetrack at breakneck speeds in one of the world's coolest cars. Just as long as time is the only thing we kill.
Even watching TV reporter Matty McLean emerge from his ride with a face redder than the car's paintwork and stagger around like a drunken jellyfish hasn't shaken me.
I've got full confidence in Jono. From my experience, race car drivers are rivalled only by boxers when it comes to media-friendly self-promotion. So while Jono might do what he can to make me soil my race suit, he's not going to put me in danger.
Jono Lester's Ferrari 458 GT3.
Jono's granddad Rob helped build Manawatu's Manfeild Autocourse and his dad Richard was also a gun driver. By the time Jono was 7 he was tooling around the circuit in a Daihatsu Charade. At 13 he was racing open wheelers.
It's the car I don't trust. Italians have a reputation for making high-quality machinery, but machines have a habit of breaking at the wrong time. And I've already spotted a design flaw while the mechanics were busily checking it out. The engine is in the back, where the golf clubs should be.
If Jono sticks us into a wall at 300km/h, that engine block will be the last thing that goes through me.
I must have a word with Enzo.
Jono hits the start button and we're off. Flying. The acceleration (0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds) is impressive but what sets it apart is its braking, which is handy with a top speed of over 300km/h.
My faith in Jono takes a bit of a hit when we slide through the corners at the end of the back straight. I'd assumed this thing would handle like it was on rails but, unless I'm imagining it, we're losing traction in and out of the corners.
Heading down the home straight at 265km/h, Jono takes a hand off the wheel and starts fiddling with some bells and whistles on the dash. If he's re-tuning the radio I sure hope he's searching for religious programming. My attempt to shoot him a dirty look fails, because the G-forces are threatening to embed my eyeballs in my brain.
Just like that it's over. If the hot lap was a sexual encounter, Jono's $1 million Ferrari would be eyeing me dolefully and saying "don't worry love, it happens to everyone".
It doesn't, of course, but it should. Ferraris are cool. Getting to experience what they can do in the hands of the likes of Jono is even cooler.
Back in the pits Jono tells me the Hampton Downs circuit has been used for drifting recently and is what race-driver types call "green". And the car's setup is at its most basic, so we were indeed sliding around. But we were a long way from the car's limit.
That won't be the case next month when his Trass Family Motorsport team takes on the Bathurst 12-hour endurance race. By then the car will be operating at its peak. Hopefully he'll even have the stereo tuned.
FIFTY PLUS FORMULA 5000 LINED UP FOR HAMPTON DOWNS
An unprecedented turnout of Formula 5000 cars looks set to secure the 2015 Gulf Oil Howden Ganley Formula 5000 Festival's place in motorsport history as one of the largest ever gatheringsof the iconic race cars.
If all cars that have been entered for the racing and those set to be part of a Formula 5000 and Formula One display turn up, then organisers are confident fans will see 50 plus of the V8, 10 and V12 powered machines, with cars covering all years of the F5000 formula's life, and most if not all of the manufacturers who built cars for the series which ran in various guises in the USA, Europe and Australasia between 1968 and 1982.
The 2015 event - which stretches over the weekends of January 16-18 and 23-25 at the Hampton Downs circuit in the North Waikato - is a celebration of both the Formula 5000 type of racing car and driver Howden Ganley. Unheralded Kiwi Ganley's story is a fascinating one that took the former team mechanic to sports cars, F5000 and the dizzy heights of Formula One.
It also marks the first 'Formula 5000 World Series' - the champion of which will be crowned after the last race of the second weekend of the Festival.
At least one full grid of Formula 5000s will race during the Festival, and that could mean as many as 35 of the earth-shaking single seaters roaring around the Hampton Downs track almost five seconds a lap quicker than the best 'V8 taxi' is capable of.
Heading the entry for cars racing is Kiwi legend Kenny Smith - well into his seventies now and still the man to beat in his ex-Danny Ongais Interscope Racing Lola T332. The car is not only one of the fastest in Kenny's hands, but is arguably the best presented Formula 5000 car in the world today, having been rebuilt with fastidious attention to detail and quality by Smith's long time engineer Barry Miller. Other Lolas scheduled to race include Russell Greer's ex Graeme Lawrence T332, Sefton Gibb in the ex-Tuck Thomas T332, current F5000 series champion Andy Higgins in his Lola T400 and Phil Mauger in the ex-Teddy Pilette Team VDS T430. Pilette, one of the stars of the F5000 era, will be one of the VIP guests at the event. The early years of Lola will be represented by the fast Alan Dunkley in his T140.
New Zealand-built Begg and McRae chassis also feature strongly, as do McLaren models. Tony Roberts debuts his immaculate McLaren M10A, while Frank Karl runs his ex-Alan McKechnie M10B. Grant Clearwater is down to race the ex-Roy Lane hillclimbing spec M10A/B, Poul Christie is out in his regular ex Gethin M10B. Danie Jacobs from Hamilton will have his ex Kipp Ackermann M10B on display and expat Kiwi David Mitchell from Saudi Arabia will drive his M01B in demonstration runs. F5000 regular Tim Rush is set to run the later M22 from 1972.
Watch out also too for Festival regular Greg Thornton in his iconic ex-Peter Gethin 1974 NZ GP winning Chevron B24, a fantastic and unique machine and the only non-F1 car ever to take on and defeat Formula One machinery in an international race.
Along with the cars actually racing, there will also be a number doing demonstration runs and another significant number on static display throughout both weekends in the Hamptons conferencing facility in the circuit paddock.
"There are potential 55 plus cars, but we have realistic expectations for just over 50, and there is still time for more to commit," explained Festival Chairman Jim Barclay.
"Quite simply, there is nowhere else in the world where you will be able to see such a fine collection of Formula 5000 and F1 cars running and on display."
Along with the Formula 5000 content, the demonstration sessions will also see as many as six Formula One cars on track, and there is a huge Historic Muscle Car entry with 8 cars heading to NZ from the historic Australian TransAm series. A packed programme for the two weekends will also include a drivers parade of many of the NZ, Australian and UK Formula 5000 stars from the past and a spectacular NZ Warbirds display on Sunday 25th January featuring WW2 fighter aircraft.
Great pics from El Tel Terry Marshall - as always!
Jaden Hassan (Suzuki GSX-R1000), on his way to scoring back-to-back wins at Manfeild on Sunday. Photo / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
It is not often than a competitor in the high-speed, high-risk world of motorcycle racing can celebrate a "perfect" weekend, but that's exactly what Aucklander Jaden Hassan was able to do on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Suzuki rider from Westmere, who is embarking on only his second season of racing in the premier 1000cc formula one/superbike class, qualified on pole and then scored back-to-back wins at the second of three rounds in the popular Suzuki Series at Manfeild on Sunday.
This was a great response to his campaign-wrecking crash at the series opener at Hampton Downs, near Huntly the previous weekend, where he had been the only rider to really challenge visiting international Horst Saiger.
That crash was a death-blow to Hassan's crusade in the six-race series and he has also now elected to park up his Suzuki GSX-R1000 and not contest the third and final round of the series - which is set for the public streets of Wanganui, the famous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day - therefore removing one more obstacle in Saiger's charge for the crown.
"If I was leading the series after two rounds, I might have considered racing at Wanganui, but, as it stands after my crash last week, there is no chance I can win the series and so I'll instead have a break from racing on Boxing Day and spend the time with family over Christmas," said Hassan.
"The second race today was one of the hardest of my life, but I was happy to be pushed by Horst. I'm learning so much by racing against him.
"The weekend could not have been any better for me ... I'd call it a perfect weekend."
And, even with Hassan delivering a master class on Sunday, it wasn't enough to derail Austrian rider Saiger, the Liechtenstein resident who comfortably won both races at round one.
Saiger (Kawasaki ZX-10R) settled for third equal on Sunday, still enough for him to extend his series lead to 10 points over Taupo's Scott Moir (Suzuki GSX-R1000).
Moir had a weekend from hell, first struck down during Saturday's practice session when a stone punctured his bike's radiator. Then, the leak repaired, he made a proper job of wrecking the bike when he accidentally tossed it down the track at high speed during Sunday morning's qualifying.
Remarkably, with his crew coming to the rescue and his bike patched up, he was still able to line up for race one and Moir rewarded them by finishing third. He backed that up with a fifth placing in race two, ending the day fifth overall and shoring up second place in the series standings.
Other class leaders are: Auckland's Toby Summers (F2/600cc class); Orewa's Avalon Biddle (F3/sport bikes); Te Awanga's Eddie Kattenberg (Pre-89 post classic senior bikes); Marton's Jason Hulme (Pre-89 post classic junior bikes); Tauranga's Duncan Hart (super moto); Feilding's John Oliver (Bears/non-Japanese); Hamilton's Aaron Lovell and Tracey Bryan (sidecars).
Lap records tumbled under sunny skies at Hampton Downs on Sunday, where Horst Saiger won both F1 Superbike races at record speed.
The Liechenstein resident was pushed in both heats by Pole setter Aaron Hassan, of Auckland, but no-one could stop the more experienced Saiger from taking both victories on his Red Devils Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Hassan jumped into the lead on his Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 in race one and held it until mid-race, when the Saiger steamroller took over. Hassan fell in the closing stages which promoted Taupo's Scott Moir (Penny Homes GSXR1000) into second, with Tony Rees third on his Tony Rees Honda CBR1000RR.
2012 Suzuki Series champ Dennis Charlett, Hayden Fitzgerald and Sloan Frost rounded out the top six. Australian Linden Magee fell from his M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR Superbike which couldn't be repaired in time for race two.
Hassan, 20, initially lead race two until 43 year old Saiger reeled the Suzuki rider in after just a few laps. The pair continually swapped places until a small mistake by Hassan left Saiger a clear gap to take his second win for the day.
Moir was never far behind in a lonely race to finish third, with Rees taking a solid fourth for a good days racing. A resurgent Frost, Fitzgerald and Charlett battled for much of the race for fifth, who crossed the line in that order.
Toby Summers leads the Formula 2 category after a mixed day of racing for the 600cc front runners. Although equal on points with Honda CBR600RR rider Shane Richardson of Wainuiomata. Summers leads the F2 series way of a race win heading into round 2 at Manfeild on Sunday.
Man About Glass GSXR600 mounted Alistair Hoogenboezem, 22, lead the opening F2 heat but fell while passing a lapped rider with two corners remaining, handing defending F2 champion Summers victory on his R&R Power Sports Yamaha R6. Daniel Mettam and Adam Chambers collided while fighting for third position with Mettam regaining the track to eventually finish 10th. James Hoogenboezem, 24, rounded out the podium.
Summers took the holeshot for race two however Alistair Hoogenboezem was on a charge and came out the victor after a good battle at the front. Summers however had jumped the start and was penalised 20 seconds to cross the line officially tenth. Mettam and 16 year old Aaron Hassan, who qualified on Pole (as did his elder brother in F1), fought hard for what turned out to be second and third position.
16 year old Bailie Perriton of Ashburton rode very well to finish fifth and sixth in the two F2 heats.
No one could stop a superb riding Avalon Biddle on an Ozzy 450 in either leg of the F3 class. Avalon is trying to secure funding for another season racing in Europe for 2015. Riding in two classes New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald, and Leigh Tidman of Taumarunui shared a second and a third in each race.
Hamilton’s Aaron Lovell and new passenger Tracey Bryan (Tauranga) broke the sidecar lap record on their Barfoot & Thompson LCR Suzuki on their way to a pair of wins. Second position was filled by four-time Suzuki Series champions Adam Unsworth-Stu Dawe, of Auckland, on an aging 1988 Boss Engineering Windle F1 sidecar. The Auckland-based Chris Lawrance/Richard Lawrance brothers crossed the line third in both legs on their FFM Helmets Anderson R1 outfit.
John Oliver (Feilding) and Travis Moan (Auckland) were first and second in both BEARS events on their BMW S1000RR machines, while Richard Taylor (BMW S1000RR) and Dwayne Bishop (Aprilia RSV4) finished third in races one and two.
Eddie Kattenberg (Te Awanga) took his immaculate Bimota YB8 to a pair of wins in Post Classic Pre '89. Phil Duxbury of Auckland and Paul Wootton from Waikane finished in that order over the two races on their Suzuki GSXR1100s.
Riders continue the Suzuki Series battle at Manfeild on Sunday, with the final round at Wanganui during on Boxing Day, where Guy Martin returns to race a Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 Superbike at the Cemetery Circuit.
$25 ‘early-bird’ tickets for the Wanganui round are available at to go in the draw to win a brand new $8,999 Suzuki DR650 SE after the last race – entrants must be present to win. Guy Martin will be making the draw!
2014 Suzuki Series results from Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Sunday December 7.
Formula 1, race 1: Horst Saiger (Liechenstein, Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R), 1; Scott Moir (Taupo, Penny Homes Suzuki GSXR1000), 2; Tony Rees (Whakatane, Tony Rees Motorcycles Honda CBR1000RR), 3; Dennis Charlett (Christchurch, Underground Brown Suzuki GSXR1000), 4; Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Team RGM Suzuki GSXR1000) 5; Sloan Frost, (Wellington, Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSXR1000), 6.
Post Classic Pre ’89 race 1: Eddie Kattenberg (Te Awanga, Bimota YB8), 1; Phil Duxbury (Auckland, Suzuki GSXR1100), 2; Paul Wootton (Waikane, Suzuki GSXR1100), 3; Paul Russell (Auckland, Suzuki GSXR1100), 4; Sean Donnelly (Paraparaumu, Precise Print Kawasaki Z1000R), 5; Andrew Skelton (Pukekohe, Suzuki GSXR1100), 6.
Post Classic Pre ’89 race 2: Kattenberg, 1; Duxbury, 2; Wootton, 3; Russell, 4; Skelton, 5; Donnelly, 6.
Post Classic Pre ’89 series points: Kattenberg, 51; Duxbury, 44; Wootton, 40; Russell, 36; Skelton & Donnelly, 31=.
F1 Sidecars race 1: Aaron Lovell/Tracey Bryan (Hamilton/Tauranga, Barfoot & Thompson LCR Suzuki), 1; Adam Unsworth/Stu Dawe (Auckland, Boss Engineering Windle F1), 2; Chris Lawrance/Richard Lawrance (Auckland, FFM Helmets Anderson R1), 3; Corey Winter/Tim Shepherd (Wanganui, Palmers Plumbing DMR), 4; Andy Scrivener/Steve Bryan (Taupo/Tauranga, DMR600), 5; Alex MacDonald/Andy Gorst (Kaiapoi, Daniel Smith Industries Dunoon Suzuki 1000), 6.
F1 Sidecars race 2: Aaron Lovell/Tracey Bryan, 1; Adam Unsworth/Stu Dawe, 2; Chris Lawrance/Richard Lawrance, 3; Corey Winter/Tim Shepherd, 4; Andy Scrivener/Steve Bryan, 5; Alex MacDonald/Andy Gorst, 6.
F1 Sidecars points: Aaron Lovell/Tracey Bryan, 51; Adam Unsworth/Stu Dawe, 44; Chris Lawrance/Richard Lawrance, 40; Corey Winter/Tim Shepherd, 36; Andy Scrivener/Steve Bryan, 32; Alex MacDonald/Andy Gorst, 30.
BEARS race 1: John Oliver (Feilding, BMW S1000RR), 1; Travis Moan (Auckland, BMW S1000RR), 2; Richard Taylor (Wellington, BMW S1000RR), 3; Dwayne Bishop (Wanganui, Aprilia RSV4), 4; Jason Bardell (Wanganui, Aprilia RSV4), 5; Shaun Manson (Wanganui, BMW HP4), 6.
2014 Suzuki Series set for big start at Hampton Downs
Saiger and Costello lead quality entry
It doesn't get any more thrilling than top line motorcycle racing and some of the best riders from home and abroad are all set to do battle in the Two Wheel Trophy at Hampton Downs over the weekend of December 6 and 7 - the first round of the 2014 Suzuki Series.
More than 200 thoroughbred racing motorbikes are set to grace the first weekend for New Zealand's top road race series. And there's plenty of international interest in the series, which begins at the North Waikato track then moves on to Manfeild on December 13 and 14 before concluding at the world famous Cemetery Circuit races on the public streets of Wanganui on Boxing Day (December 26).
More international riders than ever before have signed up for the event, promising one of the most competitive and fiercely fought motorcycle race meetings ever at Hampton Downs.
Horst Saiger from Liechenstein is confirmed and will race F1 machinery for the Red Devil Racing team and Kawasaki NZ in the Suzuki Series. He is the two time Swiss Champion, and was third this season in motorcycle racing's World Endurance Championship. He is also the current holder of the Super Stock 1000 lap record at the NW200.
One of the sport’s more colourful characters, he has extensive experience, has ridden the daunting Isle of Man TT course many times and describes himself on his Twitter page as a ‘mechanic, motorcycle racer and beer fan’. He also finished a highly respectable sixth at the recent Macau GP event.
The world's fastest female motorcycle racer is heading to Hampton Downs for the event too. Brit Maria Costello MBE not only held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course at an average speed of 114.73 mph, but she was also the first woman in the history of the Isle of Man motorcycle races to stand on the podium (RLR Motorsports Honda RVF400 – MGP 2005). Her success as a female motorcycle racer and success on the track has attracted attention from the media and the motorsport industry worldwide and she will be a popular addition to the Hampton Downs field.
Further interest from overseas again this year comes in the shape of Supermotard ace Malachi Mitchell-Thomas from Great Britain. Germany's Thomas Kreutz is returning again and this time around brings Steve Mizera as team mate. Australian brothers Craig and Steve Trinder are among many indicating their intentions to race in the series too. Joining them of course will be all New Zealand’s top talents including Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett winner of the Suzuki Series’ Formula One class last season.
They will be joined by the likes of Sloan Frost, Robbie Bugden, Canadian number two Andrew Nelson, Rhys Holmes, Dan Stauffer (Yamaha), Nick Prestige (Ducati), Dion Sellers (BMW) , Steve Bridge (Ducati),Jamie Galway (Triumph), Scott Moir (Honda) and Darren Love.
All the regular popular support classes will return including the F3 Sportbikes, Post Classics,the iconic BEARS and the Ultra Lites.
Hampton Downs early bird tickets are available until Monday 1 December atwww.hdticketing.co.nzand are $10 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.
Film and TV star Guy Martin races a Suzuki GSXR1000 around Wanganui's Cemetery Circuit. Photos / Terry Stevenson
Racers from around the world are all revved up and ready for the 2014 Suzuki Series which kicks off at Hampton Downs on Sunday, December 7.
Spread over three quick-fire rounds at Hampton Downs, Manfeild and Wanganui during December, the Suzuki Series is the richest international motorcycle series in New Zealand.
The big news is film and TV star Guy Martin is returning for another crack at the Cemetery Circuit, for unfinished business. This year the Briton will be racing a more competitive Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 Superbike, and the truck mechanic will be aiming to improve on last year's fifth and sixth placings.
Martin will also race a Manx Norton in the Classic category during his third visit to Wanganui.
Guy Martin drawing the winner of the new Suzuki bike draw in 2013
No less than 15 international riders take the grid from countries including Japan, Liechenstein, Britain, the Isle of Man, and Australia.
With 2013 Suzuki Series champion Nick Cole retired from motorcycle racing, Horst Saiger (Liechenstein) has taken up the challenge on the Red Devil's Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbike.
Saiger has vast experience and has competed at the Isle of Man, the North West 200, and is a current member of the Bollinger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki) in world Endurance racing, finishing second in 2014. Riding a ZX-10R, Saiger finished a creditable sixth at the Macau GP last weekend.
Australian Enduro ace Phil Lovett makes a welcome return, along with his Auckland-based daughter Sophie, both racing Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbikes. Rennie Scaysbrooke makes his second visit across the Tasman to race a Suzuki GSXR750 and GSXR600 at Wanganui.
Fast Australian Linden Magee also makes his second appearance in the series, on the M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR. Magee suffered a high-speed crash at Manfeild last year which put the BMW out of the series.
All of them will have to deal with the local Kiwis before they can claim first prize, but it would be a brave person to pick a winner from the NZ talent pool.
2012 Suzuki Series champ and current NZ Superbike champion Dennis Charlett returns on his Underground Brown Suzuki GSXR1000. The Christchurch racer knows what it takes to win the big races, and titles. Charlett finished second last year.
Sloan 'Choppa' Frost (Wellington) is one of the country's fastest riders but will need greater consistency on his Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 if he wants to improve on his third overall in 2013.
Frost says, "I'm excited to get the Suzuki Series underway. We have been busy getting prepared and I'm excited to be welcoming Bailie Perriton to the team who will be riding a Suzuki NZ GSXR600L2. I'm finally getting back up to speed following surgery on my wrist from an accident at Wanganui last year, so I'd really like to make amends this year!
It's never been easy to win races but the list of riders now that are capable of winning races is longer than I can ever remember!"
Taupo's Scott Moir finished fourth last year on his GSXR1000 and could be just the person to capture his first big bike title. Hayden Fitzgerald was only five points behind Moir in 2013 on his Team RGM Suzuki GSXR1000, and only needs to make a small step up in speed to capture the wins.
No one can ever discount the resurgent Tony Rees of Whakatane, on his well prepared Tony Rees Honda CBR1000RR.
A race winner in the NZ championships, Auckland teenager Jaden Hassan has an outside chance of taking the Suzuki Series, just as he did in the F2 class in 2012.
Sloan Frost leads the charge on his Fujitsu Suzuki Superbike
With a close points system riders cannot afford to suffer a crash or mechanical failure if they want a share of the massive $36,550 series prizemoney.
The F2 600 category promises to be as competitive as ever, with top riders such as Adam Chambers, Daniel Mettam, Alistair and James Hoogenboezem, Rhys Holmes, 15 year old Aaron Hassan and international racer Connor London all looking to cross the line first.
Japanese riders Toshiyuki Arakaki and Akashi Kohno, the UK's Billy Redmayne, plus Australians Aidan Hopkins and Rennie Scaysbrooke round up the international F2 list.
Defending F2 champion Toby Summers returns as favourite on his R&R Power Sports Yamaha R6, and this year will focus on his 600cc effort, not riding in Supermoto.
Italy-based Avalon Biddle will be riding an Ozzy 450 in the F3 class - she was an F2 600 front-runner last year. In one of the greatest match-ups of the Series, Biddle will be pitting her international skills against UK racer Maria Costello MBE, on a KTM690 which she will also ride in the BEARS category. Costello raced at Hampton Downs last month during the Barry Sheene Memorial.
America's Cup Team New Zealand head Grant Dalton is swapping sea spray for hard tarmac as the Aucklander is set to race his Kawasaki ER6 in the F3 class at Wanganui.
Hamilton's Aaron Lovell and new passenger Tracey Bryan (Tauranga) will be anxious to go two better in the title chase than last year's third overall on their Barfoot & Thompson LCR Suzuki. Racing a Boss Engineering Windle F1 sidecar, the Adam Unsworth-Stu Dawe pair from Auckland won last year and know how to get the best out of their aging machine. Both riders are highly competitive and won't give in without a fight.
The support classes are often where the best racing takes place, including Formula 3, BEARS and the popular Post Classics. Classic solo machines and classic sidecars will appear at Wanganui only.
$25 'early-bird' tickets for the Wanganui round are available atwww.cemeterycircuit.co.nzto go in the draw to win a brand new $8,999 Suzuki DR650 SE after the last race - entrants must be present to win. Guy Martin himself will again be making the draw.
2014 Suzuki Series schedule
Round 1: Hampton Downs, Sunday December 7
Round 2: Manfeild, Sunday December 14
Round 3: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, Friday December 26
Auckland driver Clark Proctor (#57 March 73/1A) seen here leading Aaron Burson (#29 McRae GM1) heads a seven-strong Kiwi contingent contesting the opening round of the 2014/15 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series in Melbourne this weekend. Photo / FastCompany,Alex Mitchell
Auckland's Clark Proctor (aka The Metalman) heads a strong Kiwi contingent contesting the opening round of the 2014/15 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival motor racing series at Melbourne's Sandown circuit this weekend.
Clark won races and finished second overall in the 2012/13 MSC series, and after mechanical issues de-railed his 2013/14 campaign the talented all-rounder returns with a freshly rebuilt March 73/1A.
Proctor is one of a group of seven New Zealand-based MSC NZ Tasman Cup Revival Series regulars who will take on a similar number of resident Australian drivers in three MSC series races at the annual Historic meeting.
Joining him in flying the New Zealand flag are former series champions Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin and Ian Clements (Lola T332) from Christchurch, Russell Greer (Lola T332) from Blenheim, 2012/13 series third place-getter David Banks and fellow Talon MR1 driver Grant Martin from Auckland, and Lotus 70 driver David Arrowsmith from Christchurch.
UK-based series' regular Greg Thornton is also back for the full 2014/15 MSC series with the car he debuted at Hampton Downs last season, a rare Ford V6-powered March 75A.
Facing the Kiwi/UK squad is a field of top Australian F5000 category drivers led by Melbourne ace Bryan Sala (Matich A50/51), young gun Tom Tweedie (Chevron B24), and Richard Davison (Lola T332), the father of V8 Supercar drivers Alex and Will.
There will also be considerable interest in the series debut of one of Australia's category originals, four-time Australian Drivers' Championship winner Alfie Costanzo in a McLaren M10B.
Other local drivers in the 21-strong field are Australian category stalwarts Darcy Russell (Lola T330), Robert Harborow (Lola T192), Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) and Chris Hocking (Matich A53), and new faces Peter Brennan (Lola T330) and Geoff Munday (Elfin MR5B.
The Sandown round of the 2014/15 MSC series round is the first of two in Australia, the Kiwi cars being shipped to Sydney later this month for the Historic Sports and Racing Car Association of New South Wales' annual race meeting at the Sydney Motorsport Park over the November 29/30 weekend.
The first two New Zealand rounds of the 14/15 MSC series will then be held over consecutive weekends at the two Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival meetings at Hampton Downs in mid-January.
The final two will then be held over consecutive weekends in early February, the penultimate one at the annual Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna), and the final at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild.
Formula 5000 was New Zealand's premier motor racing category from 1970 to 1975 and the organisers of the Gulf Oil-backed 2015 New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs are eyeing a record line-up of local and overseas-based cars.
Close to 300 cars were built to contest the various Formula 5000 (Formula A in the United States and Canada) series around the world between 1968 and 1982 and as many as 60 are expected to line up at the two Festival meetings.
The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney's Specialized Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide.
Add four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy, main-game drivers Dale Wood and Jack Perkins, and Pirtek co-drivers Steve Owen, Cameron Waters and Ashley Walsh into the mix and the racing is sure to be doorhandle-to-doorhandle.
Van Gisbergen had a stellar weekend on the Gold Coast, setting pole, winning race one and finishing fifth in race two. The second race of the weekend was the eye-opener.
The Kiwi came flying through the pack from last after receiving a drive-through penalty and is keen to triumph with co-driver Simon Evans.
"We've had debrief about last weekend and I've had a couple of days off, so now it's time to get back into it," said Van Gisbergen. "I won't be the only one who's match-fit, as Tim [Slade] and some of the other Aussies will be on it as well.
"Simon and I had a good result in Taupo last time we raced, and we now have a good points lead. We have to keep building on that for Simon's championship. I just have to keep it clean for him and make sure I help set him up for the rest of the series."
The NZ series is a bit of a change for Van Gisbergen, because he's the co-driver rather than the main man.
"You certainly think a little bit differently not being the main driver, but when you get in the car you still try to do the best you can.
"You still have to be quick because the co-drivers have their own qualifying session as well so you have to be fully on it."
Taking an early series lead is always the best way to start a championship year, and Evans is looking forward to building on his success at Taupo.
"I think it's going to be close," said Evans. "A few of the co-drivers hadn't been to Taupo before, but a lot have been to Hampton Downs.
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"We rolled up to Taupo with everything well prepared and it worked. This weekend some of the other teams have had a bit more time so it'll be a lot closer. The car's good and every time we leave the track we learn something new for the next round."
The pairing of Andre Heimgartner and Morris will be quick, but look to Richard Moore and Slade who'll be out to make amends for a less than successful weekend in Taupo.
Moore is quick at Hampton Downs and got his first race win on the circuit.
"I made a few small mistakes at Taupo and we had a pretty average weekend," said Moore. "I like Hampton Downs and we're eager to get back into it. I'm sure that after Tim's last weekend he'll be keen to get back into a race again.
"I think we should have been on the podium in the races at Taupo and we'll be aiming for the top spot at Hampton Downs."
The Kiwi pairings of Ant Pedersen and Jonny Reid, John McIntyre and Mark Gibson and Shaun Varney and Andrew Waite will have a battle.
Pedersen and Reid probably have the best chance as Pedersen had his first yahoo around Bathurst in a V8 Supercar (with Heimgartner) and Reid has an enviable racecar pedigree.
NZ SuperTourers after round one
1. Shane van Gisbergen - 404
2. Simon Evans - 391
3. Ant Pedersen - 339
4. Andre Heimgartner - 335
5. Jonny Reid - 333
6. Tim Slade - 324
7. Richard Moore - 318
8. Paul Morris - 317
Shane Van Gisbergen is in red-hot form as he heads to this weekend’s Waikato 400 at the TR Group V8 Festival at Hampton Downs, round two of the 2014-15 BNT NZ SuperTourers championship, Nov 1-2.
Van Gisbergen teamed up with his old friend and fellow Aucklander, Simon Evans, to dominate the first round of the championship at Taupo in September, and they start as clear favourites for the second endurance round in Evans’ Holden.
In between the two New Zealand events Van Gisbergen again showed his great speed and car control on Australasia’s main V8 stage, the 1000km race on the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst and the Gold Coast 600 over the weekend - where he achieved a pole position and race win.
At Bathurst he qualified on pole, broke the lap record and was leading near the end – till the final pit-stop, when his Holden stalled and would not restart because of a starter motor failure. After losing three laps, he finished 16th but retained fourth place in the V8 Supercar championship.
“We had a fantastic car at the end, so I’m pretty gutted really,” he said after the race.
And Evans is now one of the top resident Kiwi drivers, as he proved when he made the break that set up the duo’s victory in race one at Taupo, so the pair will be hard to beat.
But Van Gisbergen is not the only young Kiwi to make an impression at Bathurst. Hamilton’s Ant Pedersen and Aucklander Andre Heimgartner, who stand second and third respectively in the New Zealand championship, were on course to finish sixth till they also hit a late setback, a miscalculation by the crew forcing them to stop for extra fuel right at the end.
In the BNT NZ SuperTourers endurance rounds, Pedersen shares his Ford with former A1GP hero Jonny Reid while Heimgartner’s co-driver for his Holden is Aussie veteran Paul Morris, who won Bathurst with Chaz Mostert.
Reigning champion Greg Murphy needs to get back to the top of the podium as he and Aussie Jack Perkins failed to finish the first race at Taupo, their Holden damaged by contact with another car. Murphy and James Courtney, racing for the Holden Racing Team, had finished second in the Sandown 500, the lead-up event for Bathurst, but setbacks in the big race left them 13th at the end.
More Australian V8 Supercar drivers join the fray with Cameron Waters (co-driving with Mitch Cunningham), Steve Owen (Tim Edgell), Tony D’Alberto (Angus Fogg) and Dale Wood (Dominic Storey) all crossing the Tasman for the weekend.
“The level of competition in the BNT NZ SuperTourers is very high,” Heimgartner says.
The Hampton Downs meeting will put an extra emphasis on teams’ strategy decisions as the long races will require fuel stops. The timing of these stops could make a big difference to the outcome of these races, especially if there are safety-car periods.
Saturday sees one 40-minute race and Sunday two races of 75 minutes each.
Women are a rarity at the top in four-wheel racing, and motorcycling has even fewer female contestants
Maria Costello at the Isle of Man Classic TT, 2014, riding the Peter Beugger 500cc Paton. Photo / Supplied
One of the puzzling things in motorsport today is the lack of women mixing it with the men on the same grid. There is no real reason this should be, as the machinery in this day and age is so well balanced and poised there's no need to have arms and legs like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday.
There are a few women making their way in four-wheel racing with only one, Nascar's Danica Patrick, who is doing anything at the top level.
Two or three sit on the cusp of Formula One and there are a small number sprinkled through the junior formula categories in Europe, but that's about it.
Motorcycle racing suffers an even bigger dearth of female racers sharing the grid with the blokes compared to the total number of both sexes who compete worldwide. Looking around the world, at the elite level there are only Ana Carrasco Gabarron, MotoGP Moto3, Maria Herrera Munoz, Spanish CEV Moto3, Katja Poensgen, 250 Grand Prix and probably the best-know of them all is Isle of Man and road course specialist Maria Costello.
The Brit has flung herself around the world's longest, most notorious, difficult, fickle and spectacular race circuit 44 different times on various race bikes during both the IoM TT in June, and the Manx or Classic TT in August each year.
Costello was the first woman to stand on the podium at either event when she finished third in the 2005 Ultra-Lightweight TT at the Manx GP on a Honda RVF 400VFR. During her career racing on the Snaefell Mountain Course Costello has won eight Manx GP Silver Replicas and one TT Bronze Replica.
On the official IoM website, the former veterinary nurse and now a racing journalist reckons that racing motorcycles has been character- building and life-changing and she's loved every minute of it, and will continue to do so for a long time yet.
The 41-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in 2009 for her services to motorcycling, is in New Zealand this week as one of 20 women competing in the Mike Pero Barry Sheene Motorcycle Classic at Hampton Downs.
Over the weekend Costello will be racing a Bruce Verdon Manx Norton, a Honda RS 125 and a Bimota TZ400.
"It's a dream come true for me to come and race in New Zealand and I feel very lucky to be able to come here," said Costello.
"I got to race in Australia in March and this is now the second leg of the Australians versus the New Zealanders.
"I don't race on purpose-built circuits much any more. I'm a road racer [competing on closed public roads] and this is only the third time this year I will have been on racetrack.
"Road racing is fantastic and there is nothing else like it. To be able to race around the Isle of Man makes me the luckiest woman alive. There aren't words to describe what racing at the Isle of Man is like, and all the other road courses in places like Ireland are also fantastic.
"It's real racing - there's no run- off, no gravel traps, the roads change all the time and the sensations are completely different to anything else. It's not for everybody, but I love it."
All sport by its combative nature is dangerous and motor racing is no different.
Many observers of motorsport, and in particular motorcycle racing, look to the accidents first rather than the extraordinary skills involved in controlling flying metal at incredible speeds.
For a sport that looks like it's going to go pear-shaped at any moment, there are very few fatalities in motorcycle racing considering the number of people who compete day-in and day-out.
"Accidents happen all the time in ordinary life. You can break a femur by just falling over walking down the road. The sport is dangerous, but so are so many other things in life.
"All I'm looking forward to is riding some fantastic classic bikes around Hampton Downs," said Costello.
Her passion and drive to get more women into the sport she evidently loves so much led her to becoming a member of the FIM (world motorcycling governing body) Commission for Women in Motorcycling. Its mission is to create egalitarian opportunities and promote equal treatment for women involved in activities related to motorcycling.
"More women are starting to race now and we've even had up to eight racing at some meetings in Ireland. It's great to see more women racing and that's what I'm all about now - getting more women into motorcycle racing.
"I do my own track days for women in Britain and they are becoming more and more popular. We have to make the sport more visible for the young to take part.
"And there's no reason why they can't compete on equal terms, that's what is great about the sport," said Costello.
Toyota Racing New Zealand has launched the new FT50 race car for the Toyota Racing Series, describing the new car as a significant step forward featuring the latest in race car technology and safety and a worthy successor to its predecessor.
The TRS is New Zealand’s leading single-seater category and the new FT50 will be raced by all teams and drivers in the 2015 championship.
Toyota New Zealand Motorsport Manager Steve Boyce says the FT50 builds on the success of TRS, which gives young and rising New Zealand racing drivers valuable experience driving a modern ‘wings and slicks’ single seater before they contemplate heading offshore to pursue a career.
In its first ten years the series has consistently attracted talented international drivers to New Zealand to hone their racing skills during the northern hemisphere winter, meaning TRS also gives young Kiwis a chance to gauge their speed and skill against the drivers they are likely to meet on circuits in Europe, Australia, Asia and the USA.
“This is a car for the future and a significant step up for young drivers seeking experience in our leading ‘wings and slicks’ category. We have taken a bold step forward in driver safety, technology and driving dynamics to ensure the championship continues to provide drivers with a world-class driving experience,” Mr Boyce said.
Category manager and race driver Barrie Thomlinson says the arrival of the FT50 ushers in a new era for TRS. The new car is “simply stunning”, he says, and will ensure TRS remains at the leading edge of driver development.
“Tatuus have delivered us a beautiful car which we can all be very proud of and the teams and drivers can look forward to facing a new challenge as we look to the future. As always we remain 100 per cent focused on our core mission of developing young drivers’ skills in the cockpit and this car will enable us to continue to do so.”
Mr Thomlinson says the championship has propelled many young Kiwi drivers onto the world stage and the top echelons of motorsport.
• Brendon Hartley of Palmerston North now races in the FIA World Endurance Championship as a professional driver with Porsche
• Mitch Evans races in GP2 and is fourth overall with one round remaining
• Richie Stanaway competes as a factory Aston Martin driver in WEC and has competed at the front in GP3
• Nick Cassidy, races currently in the FIA European Formula Three championship and heads to the biggest event on the F3 calendar, the Macau GP. He is the third Kiwi-born TRS graduate to compete there in recent years
• Wanganui’s Earl Bamber raced in A1GP for New Zealand and is now heading towards becoming a multiple Porsche champion in Europe and Asia
• Australia is home to Shane Van Gisbergen and Daniel Gaunt who compete successfully in V8 Supercars and the Porsche Carrera series.
TRS has also honed the driving skills of recognisable young international racers which include TRS race winner and current RED Bull Racing Formula one driver Daniil Kvyat; Alex Lynn, now closing in on the GP3 title; and Lucas Auer, currently fourth in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship.
The new car has been tested in Italy and New Zealand, with multiple TRS champion Nick Cassidy driving the car at the Italian shake down tests and twice TRS champion Daniel Gaunt handling the testing duties in New Zealand at Hampton Downs and Taupo. Both drivers agree that the new car will be a valuable platform for drivers seeking to move up the international single-seater ladder.
Mr Thomlinson says the data obtained from each test will be used to decide on the final set up specification of the car prior to the individual race teams taking over for the 2015 series.
“It’s going to be very exciting to see the drivers and teams work with this new car and we are sure those who have worked so hard to make this new car a reality will be pleased with the outcome,” he says.
ABOUT THE 2015 TOYOTA RACING SERIES
The new FT50 race car will make its race debut race in the 2015 Toyota Racing Series, with the five week championship kicking off at Ruapuna in January and finishing with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Feilding in February.
The Toyota Racing Series pits the fastest rising stars of New Zealand motorsport against top international drivers in a fifteen race Gold Star championship that offers drivers the chance to win some of the most prestigious and historic trophies in New Zealand motor racing.
Barrie Thomlinson says given the FT50’s promising form in testing “we can expect to see existing lap records lowered at each of the circuits visited in the championship.”
Canterbury sports fans can look forward to spectacular racing with the return of the series to Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna on January 17-18. The Toyota Racing Series last included this challenging circuit in the 2008-2009 season.
The championship then heads south to Invercargill for round two at Teretonga, a favourite South Island circuit and the southernmost permanent race circuit in the world.
A long haul north after Teretonga brings the cars and crews to Hampton Downs in the north Waikato for the third round and the series mid-point.
The following weekend the championship returns to Taupo’s Ricoh Motorsport Park after a year’s absence. This circuit hosted the New Zealand round of the A1GP championship and is the penultimate round of the championship.
The final round of the 2015 Championship is the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild near Feilding. There, the drivers will be fighting to secure the outright championship and rookie titles as well as the chance to put their name on New Zealand’s most prestigious motor racing title, the New Zealand Grand Prix.
2015 Toyota Racing Series calendar:
14 – 18 January 2015 Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, Christchurch
22 – 25 January 2015 Teretonga Park, Invercargill
29 January – 1 February 2015 Hampton Downs, Auckland
5 – 8 February 2015 Taupo Motorsport Park, Taupo
12 – 15 February 2015 Manfeild, Feilding, New Zealand Grand Prix
Media: Veritas Comm 18 October 2014
For this article and more by NZ Motor Racing click here
Earl Bamber crowned 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion
LKM Racing’s Earl Bamber took his second consecutive Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship crown today after a faultless pole-to-flag run in the penultimate round of the season at the Sportscar Champions Festival in Shanghai. Bamber crossed the line just over a second ahead of PICC Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, who kept the new champion in his sights throughout the 12-lap race. Third was Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger, who saw his last remaining chance to lift the title from Bamber evaporate, when the New Zealand superstar collected his seventh victory of the season.
While the overall championship may have been wrapped up with a race in hand, the Class B title is still very much open going into the finale of 2014. Nexus Racing’s Alif Hamdan drove a storming race to take the win from pole, but a third place finish for Dorr Havelock Racing driver Yuey Tan keeps the contest very much alive. Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen was second, but it was an unlucky race for OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia who spun out.
Said Bamber: “Alex didn’t make it easy for me in the race, but all season we knew it would be difficult as we’d missed a race in Zhuhai. It’s a fantastic result for the team, and the competition has been great all season. Some of the best racing the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has seen.”
Ragginger was gracious in defeat and quick to congratulate his season-long title rival: “I didn’t get such a good start today. I was following Earl and Alex for the first couple of laps but I couldn’t stay with them.”
Tan, meanwhile, was excited to still be in the Class B title chase: “I’d like to thank my team for giving me a great car. Luckily the driver managed to get it together towards the end! Alif has raced a really great season, but maybe I’ll just pray a little that something happens tomorrow. Whatever the outcome though, we’ve had a really superb season.”
As the lights went out, Bamber got away well with Imperatori in hot pursuit, while Avila had a look on the inside of Ragginger but realised there was no room to make the move. Behind the race leaders, the battle was already heating up between the two drivers who would be the stars of the show: Zheng Tong Auto’s Zhang Da Sheng of China and Team Yongda Dongfang’s Ro.C. Skyangel. Having got by Zhang, initially Skyangel was able to pressure Avila ahead until he was forced by the furious Chinese driver to put all his efforts into defending. The pair made slight contact and the battle was on.
With Zhang piling on the pressure, Skyangel faltered allowing his rival by, only for the Singaporean to immediately strike back, going up the inside just two corners later to reclaim fifth. Zhang fought back, the pair engaged in a crowd-thrilling cat and mouse chase to the line. A big moment just two laps from the flag saw Zhang lose time giving Skyangel some breathing space.
Meanwhile, guest driver Carlo Van Dam, who had been running in eighth, began to drop back with first Hamdan and then Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin getting by him.
Media: Porsche Asia 18 October 2014
For this article and more by NZ Motor Racing click here
He’s 73 but motor racing legend Kenny Smith shows little sign of slowing down, writes Michael Brown
Kenny Smith thinks his 57 years of continuous motor racing might just be a world record. Photo / Michael Craig
Kenny Smith has a collection of memorabilia upstairs in his garage at Hampton Downs.
On one wall are scores of trophies he's won over the years and scattered around are images of races from yesteryear, framed certificates, old racing helmets, sashes, wreaths and books. It takes up the entire floor yet is only a fraction of all the memorabilia he possesses.
It's hardly surprising, considering Smith is entering his 57th consecutive season on the motor racing circuit. The 73-year-old first raced competitively in 1958, when he claimed the New Zealand Hill Climb Championships as a 17-yearold, and has barely stopped winning since.
He's accumulated three New Zealand Grand Prix titles (1976, 1990and2004), five Gold Star driver awards, three Formula 5000 titles, three Penang Grand Prix titles, won the Selangor Grand Prix twice and the Malaysian Grand Prix. And he's also been awarded anMBE.
Even his most recent start, last weekend's Formula Atlantic racing at Hampton Downs, he won.
"I hang in there," he says with a grin. "I don't think I've got any slower. I love it. January will be the 57th year I've done it without missing a season. It might be a world record. It would be close to it. A lot of people get into it later in life but not many do it continuously.
"My reaction time is as good as it's ever been. It hasn't gone away. I'm as sharp as anyone when it comes to the lights on a grid. A lot of the driving is done with your head. You work out how you're going to psyche out the guy who's beside you or in front and work him over. It's not just driving a car."
Smith's chassis has a few dents on it and he looks his age. He has deep set wrinkles etched into his face like widening cracks on a road and arthritis in his hands. He's also had a triple bypass and has had a few stents inserted in his arteries.
He once even completed a race with his heart medication taped to the dash board.
"The most amazing thing is he looks only 70 because I'm sure he's 150," jokes Bob McMurray, who was involved with Formula 1 team McLaren for 30 years and became a voice of motorsport in New Zealand.
Appearances can be deceiving. Smith still has the wavy hair that seems to spring back after being constrained under a racing helmet and he bounds up the stairs to find an old photograph like a teenager.
He must undergo a medical each year before he's allowed to race but says "it's no problem passing it".
"My cardiologist says my fitness rate on a 12-minute treadmill test is better than most 40 year olds. I don't go to a gym - fitness helps, of course, but a lot of people go overboard on fitness and probably do more harm wrecking themselves - but I'm on the move all the time, lugging engine boxes around. That keeps your mind and body sharp."
He's put on weight since his prime racing condition, although that's relative. He used to pack 57kg-58kg around his diminutive 1.57m frame but is now a hefty 64kg.
He still slips easily into the single-seater cars he's been racing for most of his life.
It's a good life and one he's not about to give up.
"As long as I can see and get in a car and feel that I haven't lost the edge, I will keep going," he says. "If you want to sit at home and watch TV all day, you will sit there and die."
There was a period in the late 1980swhen it seemed the chequered flag was being waved on his career. He had just had a triple bypass heart operation and a cardiologist told him to stop racing.
"That was a big shock," he admits. "It knocks you back when someone says that. I suppose that's typical of what they have to say when they think you are in bad shape but they don't realise that it's not the end of life. You keep going. I was lucky. Twenty years prior to that [operation], you would have been dead with those sort of complaints.
"I contemplated the end for a couple of weeks but then I thought this was bullshit. Once I had the bypass done and was on my feet, I worked hard on getting fit. Two months later, I was back in the car and did the whole series. I had a hell of a year doing it."
Smith finished second behind Paul Radisich in the New Zealand Grand Prix, an agonising result for a couple of reasons. Not only did he miss another title by one-tenth of a second but he also suffered in the car.
His back ached painfully every time he went over a bump on the Pukekohe track and he contemplated retiring but was still mixing it with Radisich so attempted to get more comfortable.
"I loosened the seat belts and turned my body sideways and used my shoulder to hold myself up," he says. "My foot was on the steering rack which runs through the car and I jammed myself stiff in there. The next day, I found out that when they do a bypass, they pull you open and crack some bones and one of them was piercing a muscle in my back and bleeding in there.
"I got it looked at and they said, 'you'll have to stop now, you won't be able to carry on for the rest of the season'. I said, 'OK'. Next weekend, I was back racing at Manfeild."
Racing used to be a family affair for the Smiths. Father Morrie introduced a young Kenny to cars and it wasn't long before he was "laying some rubber" at the lights on the streets of Point England.
"Some of the cars I raced, I used to test them on the streets, upsetting the neighbours," he says. "That didn't matter."
Kenny and his father painted cars before the pair worked together in a car yard. Morrie also acted as chief mechanic until he died in 1988 and the rest of the family tagged along to watch.
"My mum went to every race meeting I went to until five years ago when she died," Smith says.
These days, the motor racing fraternity is his family.
"I'm not married," he says. "How can you be married and go motor racing? I have seen so many of my friends married and so many broken marriages over motorsport."
But Smith has 'adopted' plenty of youngsters in his time. Just as significant as his success as a driver has been his ability to spot and nurture young talent and get them started.
Scott Dixon, Brendon Hartley, Shane Van Gisbergen, Daniel Gaunt, Greg Murphy ... they've all had help from Smith.
"When I was really young, Kenny was a bit of a mentor and helped a lot, just as he's helped a lot of guys over the years," says Dixon, the former Indy 500 winner and three-time IndyCar Series champion.
"For me, during the end of my time in New Zealand, it was his contacts that were really important. He just know things after racing for so long. The one guy you'd want to pick the brains of would be Kenny.
"He loves being involved and helping. He just plain loves racing, man. That's the cool part of it. He's really enjoyed seeing the success of all the guys he's helped and, whenever I get back [to New Zealand], I always try to set a day aside to go and see him and talk about racecars and racing."
Tom Alexander is the latest protégé to work in Smith's garageandhopesonedaytoraceV8 Supercars. His chances are good if history is any judge.
Smith is hoping to put a V8 SuperTourers team together next year - he had hoped to enter one this year but couldn't raise enough money - and sees more of a future in team management.
"I feel good when you can get a kid going good," he says. "I don't do it for money. If I was smart, I would sign up as their manager and head overseas with them but I get a thrill out of it when they win a race."
Smith has rarely lost that winning feeling. He started winning at a young age and is still winning now.
He's found the move into more modern race cars a challenge because of his advancing years and the stiffer suspension and smaller tyres that are features of classes such as the Toyota Racing Series which younger drivers are more able to cope with.
Put him in a Formula Atlantic or Formula 5000, and he's still driving his 1975 Lola T332, and he's consistently finishing in the top three if not at the front. He describes the ride as like getting into a "big, comfortable armchair".
Smith mixed it with the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Chris Amon in their prime in the 1960s and '70s, and many still wonder if he would have made it had he dedicated himself to chasing a Formula 1 drive.
"I have no doubt he would have been competitive," McMurray says. "He should have gone overseas. He had the chance but declined for one reason or another.
"He could have made a very, very good living at that time - as long as he survived, of course, because it was a very dangerous time in motorsport. He gave up a career in international motorsport to stay here."
Smith doesn't regret staying in New Zealand but it occasionally nags at him.
"I probably should have gone to England and the States in the early days," he says. "I probably could have got a [F1] drive. I can even remember seeing an old Autosport and them advertising for Formula 1 drivers. Well, they were killing them week by week, so I suppose they needed more.
"You make your life and do these things. You talk yourself into things and talk yourself out of it. Back in the '70s, money wasn't easy - $10,000 in those days was probably $500,000 today. I'm happy what I've done. I've raced in Asia and Australia and been successful in everything I've done.
"I raced in the '60s, '70s and '80s, and that was racing. To me, Formula One is absolute bullshit today. The driver sits in the car and has so many controls and is told what to do. Michael Schumacher said that it was 20 per cent driver and 80 per cent car. In the old days, it was 80 per cent driver and 20 per cent car."
Smith acknowledges he won't win another New Zealand Grand Prix -he's racedin46editionsand is keen to attain 50 starts-but he's less worried about winning these days. Sometimes he's more intent on which horse won the third at Ellerslie and many of his races have been delayed as he listens to a call.
Smith has the mangled chassis from a crash that broke his foot a couple of years ago hanging on his garage wall. It seems to act as both a trophy and a reminder but he has no fears of crashing because speed is a relative concept.
"I don't feel fast. When you're standing as a spectator, it looks pretty hairy and hard work, but when you are in the car, it's totally different. You might think your mind has to be on everything but it's when you relax that it all comes together. You have plenty of time. When you go down the straight in a powerful car, you almost have time to put a cigarette in your mouth and light it."
Kiwi V8 star hates driving in the wet, but he's still good at it
One of the most well-respected motorsport team managers, Steve Hallam, can't work out why V8 Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen is so good in the wet.
The Kiwi has told Driven he "hates" driving in the rain.
But anyone watching the Tekno Autosports racer last weekend at the Sydney Motorsport Park will be muttering, "Yeah right".
Racing in the wet is a great leveller, but as Hallam says, you still have to get all the parts working at their best.
"One of the great intangibles from where I sit is how he [Van Gisbergen] knows where the grip is, and how much he has to deal with," he said.
"The grip levels change every lap and I don't know how he does it. Some drivers are better at it than others, even though they don't like the conditions and Shane is honest about it.
"The thing that I do know is that Shane will give everything he's got any time he goes out, and he feels the car better than many others.
"He likes driving many different cars in different conditions, and I think that helps with him being able to cope with changing conditions."
Driven caught up with Van Gisbergen in Auckland during the week to get his thoughts on working with Hallam and "that" drive.
"Working with Steve is great and learning from him about what to look for with the car and how to describe what it's doing," Van Gisbergen said.
"The broadness of his understanding of how a car works is hard to believe.
"I still don't really know why I go so well in the wet but I know the car was great [Sydney] and I enjoyed going searching for grip. We were doing really wide lines and it seemed to work because there's no grip on the normal dry lines. I just seem to be able to pick it [finding grip] up a bit quicker than the others."
Other than his undoubted skill in wet and dry, Van Gisbergen's rise up the table to fourth place before the start of the three endurance rounds, is down to Hallam, his driver and the team's platform of consistency.
"Success in a V8 championship is realised over a season's campaign. Everybody strives for consistency but periodically you get the stool kicked out from underneath you as you try to attain a level of consistency that will gain you good results.
"This category is very outcome-focused - must win a championship, finish top three etc - and while these are worthy statements in isolation, they don't achieve anything. What a team has to do is to focus on is how it's going to achieve its goals, not what the goals are.
"Things don't always go to plan so you have to be prepared for days that don't go according to plan and learn from them. Every sports team in the world wants to find some level of consistency that allows them to perform at their best, and we're not alone in trying to do that.
"What I say to our guys here is that you're responsible for things inside your control, but not outside your control so don't worry about that. Everyone was employed because they are good at what they do and wishing and hoping doesn't achieve anything."
Van Gisbergen is also rejoining the V8 SuperTourers series with Smeg Racing after skipping the sprint races this year. He will partner with Simon Evans.
Van Gisbergen is the second full-time V8 Supercars pilot to confirm for the endurance rounds. Tim Slade will co-drive with Richard Moore.
"It's the first time I have ever been a co-driver and it is a different role," said Van Gisbergen. "But it's not about me this year. I have to bring the car home straight and bank the points for Simon."
Round one of the enduro series is at Taupo Motorsport Park on September 27 and 28.
Round two is at Hampton Downs on November 1 and 2, and the finale is at Pukekohe on November 29 and 30.
Hampton Downs Motor Sport Park will expand activities at its complex this October with the opening of a huge park for casual and competition off road use.
Polaris, the world’s largest off road vehicle producer has taken up naming rights and the new venue will be known as the Hampton Downs Polaris Off Road Park.
The off road park is a new concept for off road motorsports, providing accessibility to a well-established facility on a weekly basis with track hire available all season. It will cater for casual use every Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 4pm during a season that will run from October to May and will cater for bikes, ATVs, UTVs and off road race cars. There are plans for regular competitive events and brand new “Skids 4 Kids” days will also be a feature, encouraging younger generations to become involved. Major partner Polaris sees it as a great fit in its drive to increase popularity and sales of its factory-produced range of off road recreation and competition vehicles.
Park Manager Ian Foster believes The Polaris Off Road Park will be significant for the growth and exposure of the sport which is often conducted in remote, one-off, locations. “The aim is to grow the sport by giving anybody and everybody the opportunity to experience off roading in a controlled environment with competitions at the venue to expose the sport of Off Road Racing to the general public,” he explained.
A focus will be on the factory produced class of UTV vehicles, which are fast becoming popular for both recreation and competition. The first UTV Championship will be a feature of the season and will be staged in conjunction with a revived Off Road Grand Prix Series. Auckland Off Road Racing Club has booked eight dates to run Off Road Association of New Zealand (ORANZ) sanctioned events at the park over next summer, which will include a National Championship round.
Hampton Downs circuit is already popular amongst the country’s car brands and the new facility will also be available for dealer demonstration days, corporate ride days and track hire during weekends and week days by appointment. The public will also be welcome to hire an off road vehicle on offer or bring their own, trailered, machine to any of the public weekends scheduled throughout the summer season.
Oldsmobile lives up to its name but it’s no museum piece, writes Jacqui Madelin
Dennis Lowe's curved-dash Oldsmobile was imported by the Subritzky family from Australia. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
It's not often you see an 111-year-old car with a full history, but here's one. Bought in Australia, the curved-dash Oldsmobile was imported by the Subritzky family on the ship Greyhound - it sat on the deck, and was unloaded at ports to putter up to the pub. I've seen the photo.
And the one in which it stars as the first car to crash into public transport in New Zealand - on Labour Day 1904, on Auckland's Hobson St. Hence the artillery-type replacement wheel from a later-series curved-dash Olds, and the box front it carried until owner Dennis Lowe found a curved-dash template and made another, from wood, by hand, "It was quite a bit of work."
The three original wheels are second-growth hickory, as used in axe and hammer handles, and yes, the car is largely original.
Lowe had to patch the rear lamp and replace some lenses and he's about to refit the refurbished front lamps - all three run on kerosene. He built the back louvres ("After the tram smash there was a flat piece of kauri and it's meant to be louvred.")
He reckons the mudguards are the original paint, complete with the dings of a century of use. The floor mat is a repro, as is the ignition switch, but it has the original coil.
He does have a spare motor. "They reckon if you have a spare you won't need it." The footbrake operates a metal band working on a metal drum beside the diff sprocket. "The first ones didn't have a park brake, so when the chain broke you'd sail on merrily down the road until you hit something."
When Lowe took it for a VIN, "It hadn't been registered since the war, the man said he couldn't give it a WoF as it had no brakes. Well, he couldn't see brake drums, so I had to demonstrate, you brake hard, the spring winds, and when you stop it jumps back a metre as the spring unwinds. Everyone applauded! If you have to stop downhill you jam it in reverse as well.''
The Oldsmobile is likely to get more wear under Dennis Lowe's ownership. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
The seat leather's tatty in places, you can see the horsehair. "They used horsehair as it stays springy," Lowe says. "The hair was washed, wound round sticks with a preservative and dried and it stayed curly, which is where it gets the spring from." He casually pulls a bit out to show me - clearly this is no museum piece. And we prove it, driving through Manurewa to our photo location, before he hands me the tiller. But first, we have to start it.
Turn the main tank on via the rear tap. Turn the oil tap on - it's under the driver's knee. Turn the petrol tap beside it a half turn. The carb has no bowl, and this does the job. The choke? "You'd only need that in Siberia." Now turn the ignition on, make sure it's in neutral ("Vital") then retard the spark ("Even more vital"), depress the decompression pedal - a button on the floor which pulls the valve up - then two turns of the crank. That handle is by the driver hip and can be done from the seat if you're limber enough - Lowe is - and the centrally mounted, water-cooled, horizontal single-cylinder engine is soon chuffing away.
There's a gear lever to his right - push it backwards to go backwards, forwards to go forwards, then there's another neutral and finally the second gear. The only things a teenager would recognise as car controls are the foot accelerator and brake; the car is steered by a tiller. The turning circle is phenomenally tight. "I did a gymkhana and they closed the slalom course up for me when they saw what she'd do." It was actually a bit too sensitive at first - "I put a wedge between the spring and the axle to give it more castor and make it more predictable and steady."
We've only gone a few metres before we get the first thumbs-up; smiles, waves, cars slowing for cheery comments, and no one's annoyed we're holding them up. Lowe's smiling too. "I just have to pinch myself that it's mine."
He'd wanted one since he was a kid making models, and - long story short - he went to Ellerslie Concours with an Olds-owning friend and got chatting to an 85-year-old gent who had this car. After the Subritzkys sold it the same owners had it from 1928 or '29 until 2011, discussions ensued, and the day the Lowes were going on holiday the deal was struck.
But it's my turn to drive. I'm startled to find no clutch - the epicyclic gearbox does the lot. Into low and we pull away, then quite quickly up through neutral and into high, the steering remarkably sensitive and a bird's-eye view of the road; it's an odd feeling with nothing in front of your knees. Down a hill or with a tail wind it'll get to 40 or 50 km/h, Dennis says, but it's at its best on the flat at closer to 30. Mind you, it pulls impressively on uphills, if you open the petrol switch behind your knee. It's only rated to 3.3kW - "The same as a modern Briggs and Stratton lawnmower" - but the 54kg flywheel in a 300kg-odd car means there's plenty of torque. It's spinning at 900rpm at 40 km/h, but we're chuntering along at about 200rpm, only just ticking over. It feels odd cornering, you really are perched atop it, and the tapered leaf spring suspension is no match for modern equivalents.
It doesn't pay to look down as the wheels are wobbling alarmingly, you'd feel it if you went much faster. I chuckle at the thought, but Lowe has actually driven this thing around Hampton Downs race track, at the Ron Roycroft festival. "The others did three laps, and I did one!"
His usual tow car is a 1935 Chrysler Plymouth PJ, a two-door I admire before we settle down over tea to look at the original registration record - registration was compulsory from June 1906, and the car had plate number A52. It's been towed as far as Napier, but closer to home he's driven it to Clarkes Beach, though he prefers to avoid open roads because its speed is so limited.
This was the most popular car in the world in 1903, with about 19,000 built in a six-year model life, and was the first mass-produced car, built on an assembly line using interchangeable parts.
Most of those you see now are copies built around the motor as the wood rotted, but this one's American oak frame and poplar panels survived rather well, with only minor wear in the crank handle's wooden socket.
I suspect it'll get more wear under Lowe's ownership, he loves to see these cars kept out of museums and on the road.
Road racer tells Andy McGechan why he's putting retirement on hold
Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R1000) is determined to defend his national superbike crown in 2015. Photos / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Retirement didn't last very long for Dennis Charlett. The Canterbury crusader will again spearhead the Suzuki assault on New Zealand's motorcycle road race titles in 2014-15.
The 45-year-old former national 125cc and 600cc champion finally became the New Zealand superbike (1000cc) champion earlier this year and he did it with relative ease -- despite intense racing throughout the four-round series.
Charlett (Underground Brown Suzuki GSX-R1000) had built up enough of a points lead at the two South Island rounds of the series at the start of this year that, by the time racing headed up for the two North Island rounds, he was in a strong position.
The Christchurch man then did all that he needed to do at the final round at Manfeild in March -- finishing 7-8-6-2 in his four races that weekend -- to seal the premier title ahead of Australian BMW rider Linden Magee, then promptly announcing his retirement.
But Charlett has decided "you can never say never" and he announced he will be back again on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 bike when the 2014-15 season gets under way, starting with the three-round Suzuki Series at Hampton Downs on December 6 and followed by the national championships.
"I've sold my title-winning bike to Wanganui's Jayden Carrick, so I will be starting from scratch with setting up another bike, the one previously raced by [Australia's five-time former New Zealand superbike champion] Robbie Bugden," said Charlett, general manager of a sheet metal fabrication workshop.
"I'm really looking forward to racing it. I'm lucky enough that, with all the work I've done, I already have some pretty good base settings and so I'll be 90 per cent ready to win right from the start.
Suzuki GSX-R1000, Dennis Charlett
"This will be my third season on a superbike after I finished third outright in 2013, then won the title this year. I also won the Suzuki Series in the class in 2012 and I'd like to win that again, as well as win the day on the streets of Wanganui on Boxing Day. That's something I'd really like to tick off my bucket list.
"I believe I'm riding better now than at any time in my career, although I don't know how many years I will keep this up. They say it's harder to defend a title than win it in the first place, so I've just got to man up and go harder to defend my title. The support I'm getting from Suzuki, and my other sponsors too, is fantastic."
With Charlett again leading the way, the Suzuki strike force looks strong, with such talented riders as Wellington's national No3 Sloan Frost, Auckland's national No4 Jaden Hassan and Christchurch's John Ross also riding GSX-R1000 machines.
Charlett will have his work cut out to defend his title against Frost, Hassan and Ross, along with stiff opposition expected from Carrick, Hamilton's Nick Cole (Kawasaki), Whakatane's Tony Rees (Honda), New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki), Taupo's Scott Moir (Suzuki) and Feilding's Craig Shirriffs (Suzuki).
The threat posed by Ross will be of particular interest. Ross won the 600 supersport class title last season and is expected to be a contender on the bigger machine.
Classes show young people safety tips and how to cope with emergencies on the road.
Hamilton mechanics student David Randall-Leon about to take off wearing goggles that simulate what it's like to drive while intoxicated - all under the watchful eye of instructor Stu Owers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Fifty youngsters took to the track at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in Waikato to test-drive a road-safety course which aims to teach vital skills.
The Audi Driving Academy is backed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and is the first of its kind to be tested here for drivers aged from 18 to 24.
Participants were taken through safety exercises by professional drivers that included lane changing, braking with Anti-locking System Brakes and normal brakes, skid pan driving and learning how to react to sudden distractions.
Audi New Zealand general manager Dean Sheed said: "We tried to show the real-world effects of driving, to teach them the basics that they won't have achieved getting standard teaching.
"Thing like techniques you need to have to avoid getting into trouble in the first place, but if you can't avoid it, how to deal with it positively."
Mr Sheed said the company subsidised the cost of the course for participants, most of whom were customers or their children. However, 40 per cent of the group were not associated with the brand, and Audi paid for them to travel from around the country to participate free.
Depending on feedback, the course may be rolled out nationwide.
"Part of our business is driver education and I think a lot of people have a role to play in increasing driver education in the community."
Racecar driver Andrew Waite, 24, spoke to participants, drawing on his own accident at the V8 Supercars in Pukekohe last month.
"You never know what's around the corner, whether on the race track or the road, and developing the right driving techniques can be the difference between life and death," he said.
Hamilton student David Randall-Leon, 18, said he had been driving since he was 15, but learned a lot yesterday.
"It was great fun and experience too. You learn skills that you didn't think were possible.
"I learned about vision, like how having to look just not one or two car spaces in front of you but planning out your next step before you get to it."
The Wintec mechanics student was also surprised by the difference safety features played, and said cars with modern technology felt safer.
Day on track helps break bad habits
Pretending a row of blue road cones is a small child running in front of your car can be distracting, especially when you knock down a few of those cone "children".
But apparently, as my professional driving instructor Tim Martin said, that is okay.
"You don't want your first practice run to be that accident; you need to know how to get yourself out of trouble."
It was a far cry from being behind the wheel of my Honda Civic on the suburban streets of Auckland, but the skills learned during the trial at the Audi Driving Academy were valuable.
The instructor took me through three safety exercises: braking, changing lanes and improving vision.
Speeding at up to 80km/h on the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park track, I was instructed to slam the ABS brakes as hard as I could and steer the car around the cone "children". It's a manoeuvre that could have dire consequences if I was in a vehicle without a decent set of brakes.
"A race track is just somewhere that has no oncoming traffic, it is somewhere that gives us a closed road, somewhere you can make mistakes," Mr Martin said. And a place where important lessons can be learned for the 18- to 24-year-old drivers whom the pilot programme targeted.
During the lane change exercise I was again instructed to build up speed and dart around more cones on a wet surface before coming to a halt after the obstacle.
Further laps of the course concentrated on vision and looking hundreds of metres into the distance instead of a few car lengths ahead.
Since the lesson, I am more conscious of my driving, whether it is changing lanes, turning corners or paying attention to potential hazards.
V8s legend raising cash for a cause, writes Eric Thompson
Greg Murphy will donate proceeds from the charity auction to help cure Type 1 diabetes. Picture / Jason Dorday
One of New Zealand's best exponents of V8 driving, and four-time Bathurst winner to boot, Greg Murphy is "lightening his load" tomorrow, by auctioning off hundreds of pieces of memorabilia he's collected over his long and illustrious career.
Folk who would love to own anything from a race suit to a model car with just about everything in between had better make plans to get themselves down to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park by 10am.
Murphy's two sons suffer from Type 1 diabetes and a fair chunk of the proceeds will be going to the Spinal Cord Society of NZ (SCSNZ) to advance vital cord blood stem cell research aimed at the reversal of this condition.
In fact, the proceeds of the 20 V8 Supercar hot laps, already at nearly $13,000, have been earmarked for the charity.
Murphy and the family are now back living in New Zealand and he and his dad decided they didn't need everything they'd collected over the years, so hence the auctioning off of race overalls, limited edition prints, caps, die cast collectable cars and team apparel.
"Supporting the trial benefits all sufferers of Type 1 diabetes," Murphy said. "I know the regional diabetes support groups around New Zealand do amazing work, but I really wanted to focus on the big picture rather than one or two areas. The SCSNZ trial addresses diabetes at the source; a cure is always the ultimate goal," said Murphy.
"I've been a bit of a hoarder for a long time and when we moved back to New Zealand we had boxes of stuff that have been in boxes for ages. I started thinking it was unlikely any of it was going to come out of the boxes and I don't need to see stuff to remind me what I've achieved in my career. And I certainly don't want it hanging on the walls in the house.
"There are a few things that have value and memories for me, which I'll keep, but there's tonnes of stuff that will have value to other people who like to collect this stuff. It's an opportunity for people who like this kind of thing to be able to have a piece of it.
"It's a great opportunity to raise, through motor racing, awareness of the Spinal Cord Society and raise some money and there's enough stuff there to suit everyone."
There's a lot of history and heritage on offer including his 1997 HRT race suit from his first fulltime V8 Supercars season where he won his second Sandown 500 victory with Craig Lowndes. There is also the 2002 Kmart Racing suit from his infamous five-minute penalty at Bathurst, the race gear from the 2003 Bathurst pole-setting 2:06.8594 "lap of the gods" and Bathurst win. Plus the 2004 Bathurst-winning race suit and those worn during the Bathurst 24-hour win with Peter Brock.
Along with the auction, there will also be a drifting display, a Formula 5000 car and a McLaren on display. If you can't make the live auction, go to www.murphhotlaps.com and register for items.
Picutre this: I'm 15 and learning to drive. My mum is in the passenger seat and we're driving down a quiet, deserted street in Whangamata in the middle of winter.
A car is coming towards me, the driver tootling along well under the 50kmh speed limit. For some reason, still unbeknown to Mum or I to this day, I freak out, take my hands off the wheel, close my eyes and cruise quietly into the left hand curb. The orange Suzuki Alto comes to a gentle stop on the footpath. I've never lived it down.
But last week I proved, if only to myself, that my driving skills have improved 18 years on. And they'd need to - there's no closing your eyes and taking your hands off the wheel of a vehicle when you're pushing 190kmh down the back straight of a race track.
I was at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park to take part in BMW's driving experience day. I was originally booked in for the level one course. However, there were more participants who wanted to take the advanced level two course so the course content was bumped up to the next level. It still catered for those who were better suited to level one content, but I, for one, wound up pleased to take part in the more challenging level two course.
First up was a briefing from instructor Mike Eady. An accredited motorsport licence examiner and gifted racing driver, Mike travelled to Munich for training at the BMW instructor academy eight years ago. The programme is rigorous and not all get through. Mike completed four levels of training and is now a qualified senior BMW instructor - one of only a handful in the world.
Mike covered off some basics - how we should grip the steering wheel (at quarter to three, not ten to two!), how to work out our optimum seating positions, and where our eyes should be looking.
Then we're buddied up, two to a car, and we're introduced to our vehicles for the day. Each pair has a shiny, near new straight six turbo powered 330D for the day.
My teammate for the day is Mark, a savvy, quick-witted businessman from Christchurch. He has a penchant for cars, particularly fast ones. His latest pride and joy is his BMW 6 series Gran Coupe.
We've run through the course during the briefing but now it's time to check it out from behind the wheel. Mike's told us how to find the lines of the track and there are cones placed strategically to help with this. A few laps of the course and we've started to memorise it. The pace is swift, but manageable. And Mike's giving us pointers over the portable RT that sits in the centre console - "hug that right line a bit more", "brake a bit harder into that corner, Dani" (they remember everyone's names!).
Each driver completes several laps before we head back to the pits.
Next up is the skid pan. The purpose-built skid pan was completed in October 2010. Perfectly smooth, aside from a rough 2m perimeter, the 100mx50m skid pan has water jets to wet the surface.
Mike talks us through what the cars will do when they're on the skid pan. Even at 30kmh, with traction control turned off they'll start to skid. Take your foot off the throttle and steer out of the skid, he says. And if that doesn't help, brake!
For some reason I think the other instructor is getting into the passenger seat with us, but he's not. I'm in there on my own. My nerves kick in and my stomach does somersaults. What if I go too fast and spin out and crash into the concrete barrier?!
But any fear of crashing is soon extinguished. Sure, it's slippery but Mike's tips are spot on and the car glides around the course. I steer out of a few skids before Mike calls me off the course so the next two cars can have a turn.
"Are you a farmer's daughter?" Mike asks after I've parked the car and rejoined the other spectators. "Nope, I'm a city girl through and through. Why's that?"
"You can normally pick the ones who've grown up on a farm, can drive in the wet and get out of skids like that. You did really well."
I'm quietly pleased with myself. The week or so before the event, my competitive nature had kicked in and I admit was worried the boys in the group would all out perform me. Turns out I had nothing to worry about there.
We each get another turn on the skid pan, this time I push the car a bit hard and spin out twice. Just because I can. And while it's a bit of fun, it was also good to have that experience. I don't want to find myself in a skid but at least I have a better understanding of how to try and get out of one.
It's off to lunch where others on the course want to know what other things we've tried out for this column. Sacha goes for things that involve heights, I tell them. I go for things that involve speed. Like today.
That competitive streak kicks in again as we all pile back into our cars and head down to the slalom course. I'm pleased to be doing the level two course today because that involves a considerably longer slalom course than the level one drivers do.
Mike takes us through the course: a tight slalom, short blat up to a more open slalom set, boot it up to the corner, around the bend, boot it again and hard brake before throwing the car around a cone, foot down as we head back to the corner and back down the straight, open slalom, short burst, tight slalom and boot it back home, slamming the brakes on right at the end.
We get three runs, each is timed. Mike adds two seconds for every cone we hit and an extra six seconds if we knock the cone over at the end, signalling that we haven't braked soon enough.
The boys are amped. I am too, just quietly. It's my turn and, like the boys, take off with tyres squealing. I misjudge the length of the car and the angles of the slalom and knock three cones over. I know it and I'm pissed off with myself.
My time wasn't bad at 1 minute 28 seconds, but my cone penalties takes that out to 1:34. My next time is better, at about 1:24.
There's a leaderboard back up in the pavilion with the top 10 times for the short level one slalom and the longer level two slalom. Anything under 1 minute 20 is good, says Mike. The top time is 1:17:71.
A couple of the guys are gunning for a top 10 placing. But the rules have changed for the last round. If you knock a cone over, you're disqualified.
Mike's egging them on but warns them to watch out for me: "she's a dark horse that one".
I'm sitting at the start line and give myself a pep talk: get your speed and steering motion consistent. Breathe. You can do it.
I scream off down the track and nail the tight slalom and the open one. My foot is hard down as I boot it to the corner, brake hard, and foot down again to the half way mark. Rule of thumb is half way is generally about 45 seconds. My teammate Mark tells me later that I swung the 330D around at 40 seconds. I nail the open slalom and my pace is good but I start to worry about my time and I knock the third to last cone over. Insert expletive here!!
But my time is 1:22:48, just two seconds slower than the fastest guy in the third round who clocked 1:20:48.
We head back up to the pits. The other two women did fine on the slalom, few cones knocked over but their times weren't up there.
Mike splits us into two groups for the faster laps of the day. I've made it into the "fast" group with the boys. Yuss!!
Throughout the day, Mike talks about how the car feels in the seat of your pants. You can feel if you're pushing too hard on the throttle, or if you've taken the wrong line in that corner. Well, Mark takes the wheel first for the second lot of laps and I can tell you, as a passenger, I felt everything in the seat of my pants.
He drives like a pro, but it's rather terrifying being a passenger at 180kmh.
By the time we head back to the pits to change places, I'm ready for my turn! Mark offers helpful tips about when to turn out of a corner, what lines to aim for and offers plenty of encouragement on the gas.
"We don't have to pay for the tyres! C'mon Dani, give it s**t!" he grinned! And I do and can feel, as Mike says, how the car handles through the seat of my pants. She handles beautifully around the corners and as I put my foot down hard on the back straight, I can feel her wanting to keep pulling as we nudge 190kmh before braking hard ahead of the upcoming bend.
We round out the day with hot laps in an M3. It's the last of its generation in New Zealand with its throaty V8 engine. The new M3 is due to be launched here in a couple of months. It'll be more powerful with its M TwinPower Turbo straight 6-cylinder petrol engine, but it won't sound the same as the V8.
While the day is entertaining and exhilarating, instructors also impart valuable basic knowledge of safety-related principles and the laws of driving dynamics.
The late, great Peter Brock said circuit racing was the most fun you can have with your pants on. I reckon he was right.
BMW's Driver Training days run regularly at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. They also hold Alpine xDrive courses at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds near Queenstown. For more information, Google "BMW driving experience".
POLE POSITION: Alan "Flea" Willacy (left) takes delivery of the latest Suzuki Kizashi from Suzuki NZ general manager of motorcycle and ATV marketing Simon Meade ahead of the 2014 competition.
The growing popularity of the Suzuki Series that culminates with the Boxing Day motorcycle meeting on Wanganui's Cemetery Circuit has not gone unnoticed.
The three-round series has captured the imagination and support of the general public and staunch motorcycling fans since its inception in 2008 and now rivals the national championship in terms of rider and spectator popularity.
The event's success has prompted major sponsor Suzuki New Zealand to sign on for another two years.
With its headquarters in Wanganui at the start of the Cemetery Circuit's famous chicane on Heads Rd, Suzuki New Zealand again retains naming rights for the 2014 series that begins at Hampton Downs on December 6, before moving to Manfeild in December 13-14 and ending in Wanganui on December 26.
"We are thrilled to have Suzuki come on board again," series organiser Alan "Flea" Willacy said yesterday.
"They are such a brilliant company to work with and do some fantastic things for the sport in general too. It makes things easy for me to have such great support behind me."
Regarded as a pre-nationals warm-up competition, the Suzuki Series began as a tri-series and, while it remains a three-round series, expectations are high that it will expand. Its popularity has gone well beyond New Zealand borders and is rapidly becoming a regular competition for international racing teams.
Last year's series attracted a good number of international visitors, including flamboyant Englishman Guy Martin, Italian supermotard ace Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, German pair Thomas Kreutz and Steve Mizera and a slew of Australians - Chris Seaton, Graig Trinder, Linden McGee and father and daughter pair Phil and Sophie Lovett.
"The entries are already starting to flow in," Willacy said.
Participants prepare for the Wings for Life World Run 2014 in Barcelona, Spain on October 6th, 2013 // Samo Vidic/Red Bull
Tens of thousands of runners around the world will set off on a history-making journey in a simultaneous global race for charity in 32 different countries this Sunday, May 4, for the first-ever Wings for Life World Run.
Hundreds of New Zealand runners will begin their part of the race from Auckland's Hampton Downs Raceway at 10pm NZT.
In California the event starts at 3am, in London the event starts at 11am, while competitors in Germany will set off at midday.
The top prize will be an extraordinary month-long trip around the world for the best male and female runners.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of spinal cord injury in the western world, emphasising the local importance of the mission of this truly global event; to raise funds to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Online registrations have now closed, but runners can register on-site at the event from 6pm.
This will be the last chance for anyone to be involved in the once-in-a-lifetime experience and compete against the world. Those wanting to spectate from home, can watch a global live feed on Sky Sport 2, from 9pm.
Although the run is open to participants 18 years or older of all levels, shapes, sizes and abilities there are several favourites to win the race.
Our current Coast to Coast champion and Red Bull endurance athlete Braden Currie will be leading the Auckland pack, and competing against the likes of Takahiro Sunada in Austria, a Japanese ultra-marathon runner who holds the world record for 100 kilometers (6:13:33.)
Other local ambassadors include rugby legend Dan Carter, Paralympic sailor and Christchurch hero Andrew May, America's Cup participant Dean Baker, Red Bull kayak expedition athlete Ben Brown, and media personalities Jay Reeve and Andrew Mulligan.
"Unfortunately rugby is one of the leading sporting contributors to spinal cord injury in New Zealand. Being a professional rugby player makes this charity close to home," says Carter.
"It would be so great to know for any New Zealander that has the unfortunate accident involving a spinal cord injury, that there is a possibility of a cure."
Participants run in front of the Wings for Life World Run Catcher Car in Oberwolz, Austria on March 13th, 2014 // Samo Vidic/Red Bull
The remarkable feature of the first global sporting event of its kind is that a moving finish line will be chasing the runners from behind, instead of the runners dashing towards a fixed finish line.
The run will start at precisely 10pm NZT and will end when the last male and female runner is caught by one of the 'Catcher Cars.'
All runners' results will be recorded by a timing tag hidden in each runner's Individual Race Number.
This tag is activated as they cross the start line and is deactivated when they are passed by a Catcher Car.
The last male and female runners will win an unforgettable highlight-filled journey that features stops in Salzburg, Istanbul, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Fiji, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro.
The New Zealand track will start at Hampton Downs Raceway, giving runners a unique opportunity to begin their journey on one of New Zealand's premium racetracks.
After completing a circuit, runners exit over State Highway 1 and head east towards the Firth of Thames.
Runners will veer left onto State Highway 25, before pointing north towards Miranda. The track continues up the coast, over the Hunua Ranges, before descending into K