‘The Kenny Smith Scrapbook’ was launched last night and it’s a great collection of stories and pictures documenting the remarkable life of a remarkable man. A phrase on the front cover of the book sums up the 75-year-old who shows no signs of slowing down: ‘Always in a hurry’.
So the first question we asked him when we caught up for a quick chat in his garage/man cave/trophy room at Hampton Downs was, ‘Are you always in a hurry?’
“I am always in a hurry,” he replied. “I’m always rushing around doing things. A lot of people can cruise through life. I’m always panicking and thinking about things I still have to do. I’m always buggering around doing something. It might be pulling apart an engine or finishing off my garage, but I’m always doing something.”
One line in the book says that Kenny ‘loathes being thought of as a legend.’ Surely now that he’s had a book written about him and the fact that from January 20-22, people will travel to Hampton Downs for the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing to celebrate his career, he can accept the fact that he’s not ‘just an ordinary bloke’ as he likes to insist.
“A lot of people like glory and bulls**t,” he says. “I don’t. I’m just a person who’s managed to carry on racing and still enjoys it. People say to me ‘you’re a legend,’ and I say ‘what’s a legend?’ I suppose I’m unique in the sense that not many people around the world, if any, have raced for 59 consecutive seasons. I’ve carried on because I love doing it. And I’ve managed to keep winning. My reaction times are as sharp as they’ve ever been. I don’t have to win to be happy but I don’t think I’d still be doing it if I was out the back of the field. In saying that I’m as happy to finish second or third if I’ve had a good battle rather than winning a race by a country mile.”
Kenny is quick to pick his win in the 1976 New Zealand Grand Prix as the most memorable of his many wins.
“That was the first major title I won and to win a Grand Prix that had the best Formula One drivers running it a few years before that was very special. There’s been some great names on that trophy, guys like Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Chris Amon and Graham Hill. Those guys could drive anything. They just got the job done. Drivers today have it so easy and all the technology has taken a lot of the skill out of it. In the old days drivers had to wrestle their cars around the track. Halfway through the race the tyres would be shot and the cars would be pigs to drive but they knew how to handle any car in any conditions. They were great drivers and they were ordinary blokes. You look at some of the drivers in Formula One today and they’re so far up their own arse. It gives me the shits to listen to them after they don’t win. They make all kinds of excuses but what are they getting shitty about. They get paid $100m to do something I’ve done for 59 years for the love of it.”
“I’ve enjoyed every year of it. There are moments during in a race when there’s something wrong with the car and you think what the f**k am I doing this for? But then an hour later you can’t wait for the start of the next race.
So you’ve no regrets then? “None. I’m happy with what I’ve done. Maybe I should have gone to England in the 1960s. I think I had the ability to be reasonably competitive and I might have got a break. I remember I saw an ad one time for Formula One drivers because there were so many accidents. They were running out of drivers. But if I had gone over there I might not be here now. I’ve had a good life and a great family around me. My father used to do all the maintenance on my cars and my mother went to every one of my races for 50 years. I never thought when I started I’d have a weekend festival in my honour. That’s good especially for the people who’ve helped me over the years. It’s recognition for them as much as it is for me. I love the atmosphere and the people involved in the sport. The circuit owners have been great to me but really it’s all about the racing. I love racing.”
At the age of 75 Kenny is still one of the frontrunners in Formula 5000 which will be the feature race at the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing from January 20-22 at Hampton Downs. Other categories include: Historic F1’s, Central Muscle Cars, Group A / Heritage Touring Cars, Formula Junior Group 1, Formula Junior Group 2, Historic Formula Ford, Libre/Historic single seater/Atlantic cars, Historic Muscle and Historic Saloon cars and European Racing Classics.
As well as a weekend of top class racing the NZFMR will also feature demo laps with Kenny Smith, a display of classic Formula 1 cars and a Show & Shine display.
For more information and to buy tickets visit: https://hamptondowns.com/nzfmr/
Art Dept December 14, 2016
Posted In: News
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