Clark Proctor is living the dream. The Howick entrepreneur sold his scrap metal business, Metalman last year freeing up more time for his other passion, motorsport. Proctor has had a long career in stockcar racing, rallying and Formula 5000 but this month he’s making his debut in the Australian GT Championship at the Hampton Downs 101 from October 29-30.
It’s the first major event at the new look Hampton Downs after a $30m investment by new owner Tony Quinn and Proctor can’t wait to try out the 1.2km track extension.
“Hampton Downs has always been a really good race track but I reckon the extension will make it even better. It’s 4kms long now and there are plenty of passing opportunities so the racing will be fierce. It should also be a great place to watch racing because you can see pretty much the whole track wherever you are.”
Proctor will be hard to miss in his Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 but he’s realistic about his expectations.
“We’re up against guys who’ve been racing GTs for many years so we’ll be absolutely stoked if we could get in the Top 20,” says Proctor. “Really we just want to finish without smashing the car up. We haven’t even driven the thing yet!”
It’s not surprising that Proctor’s goal is to get the car around in one piece, considering he paid over half a million dollars for it.
“It’s secondhand but it’s been completely rebuilt, from one end to the other,” he says. “It’s a 2013 spec car but every component in it is brand new. I’ve been told it’s maybe one second per lap slower than the latest model Nismo but me and my co-driver Andrew Porter can live with that. We’ve got plenty more car than we need.”
Proctor was bitten by the motorsport bug from an early age. He was 12 or 13 when his father, who was also a scrap merchant, acquired the Miramar Gas Works in Wellington. A 1949 Fordson truck was part of the assets and Proctor used to jump in the driver’s seat and blat around the 85 acre site every weekend. As soon as he was old enough he got into stock car racing and was a regular at tracks around the lower North Island for 20 years.
“I’m an engine reconditioner by trade so I’ve always built my own cars with my mates,” he says. “We’d cut the body down, panel beat it, paint it. We made our own wheels, engines, gearboxes, chassis. A lot of my mates would be in the pub getting into trouble and I’d be in the shed working.”
“You don’t have to have an intimate knowledge of how a car works to be a good driver. There are a lot of great drivers who wouldn’t know one end of a wrench from the other but I like to have an understanding of what goes on and if I feel something that’s not quite right or hear something that’s a little bit off, then I can figure out pretty quickly what the problem is.”
He retired from stock car racing in 1995 and concentrated on building up his business for the next five years. Then he spotted an old turbo charged Ford Escort rally car for sale and as a lifelong Ford fan he couldn’t resist it. He entered his first Targa rally in 2000 and he hasn’t missed a year since, apart from this year when he blew his engine a couple of days before the event. The yellow Metalman Escort has become something of an icon in New Zealand motorsport.
“I’ve always liked bright colours,” says Proctor. “I’ve always liked being the underdog and doing something a bit different to everybody else. If everybody had a Chevvy, I’d have a Ford. I’ve never owned a Porsche or a Lamborghini or a Maserati. I’ve driven heaps of them but I’ve never gelled with them. When I jumped in the Nismo it was different. I expect we’ll have a lot of people backing us because it’s a Nissan, because it’s different. We’re like the bogans of the GTs!”
It’s the first opportunity for North Island motorsport fans to see one of the fastest growing categories in world motorsport. In Australia, interest in the GT championship is at an all time high and for the last three years, Tony Quinn has hosted the GTs at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell, Central Otago.
“GT cars are aspirational,” says Tony Quinn. “People are excited by Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis and as a sport we have to mindful of that and give people what they want.”
Some of the cars that will race 101 laps around Hampton Downs at the end of October include Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Clark Proctor in his Nismo.
“The Australian GTs put on a great show,” says Proctor. “The balance of performance regulations and Pro-Am format makes for really close racing. You don’t always have to drive at eleven-tenths and put your machine at risk. The top guys will drive at eleven-tenths and that’s fine. They’re paid to do that but sometimes the turtle gets there as fast as the hare. For me the result is a bonus. I enjoy the cars and the people involved in motorsport. That’s why I do it.”
Other classes that will feature as part of the Hampton Downs 101 festival of motorsport include the Central Muscle Cars, GTRNZ and the Aussie Racing Cars, one of the fastest and most popular classes in Australia. There will be a feast of entertainment on and off the track including a family zone and a display by drift superstar ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett. Parking is free and U16s accompanied by an adult get free admission.
Art Dept October 18, 2016
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