Hampton Downs Report

NZ Festival of Motor Racing, celebrating Bruce McLaren
21-24 January 2010, Hampton Downs MotorSport Park

The 1960’s saw three great names in New Zealand motor sport become international icons – Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon.

The inaugural New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing is being held across two weekends in the North Island showcasing some of the world’s finest and most historically significant racing cars – the theme is a tribute to the Late Bruce McLaren.

The Kiwi commenced his international career in the late 1950’s when he travelled with Australia’s Jack Brabham to Europe and became part of the Cooper Works team.

As the Tasman series established itself for the Formula 1 drivers to escape the northern winter Bruce wanted to race a Cooper, but the works team were not prepared to build a suitable car up for him – hence the “first McLaren” was born. The Cooper T70 Climax (2.5 litre) was built, and to show the world Bruce’s engineering skills the car won the 1964 Tasman Championship. Australia’s Adam Berryman acquired the car in pieces some ten years ago and has recently completed an intensive restoration prior to the car being shipped to NZ for the festival.

Bruce and Denny Hulme made history in the late 60’s when the dominated the Canadian-American (CanAm) series in big banger McLaren sports cars – the press titled it The Bruce and Denny show!. A race for CanAm cars is part of the meeting with a brace of M1A’s, M1B’sand the almighty M12 big block car of 1969. These cars were painted orange. Bruce was quoted at the time to responding to the question why orange by stating it was for competitors to see them coming through! The pair won several CanAm titles in the late 1960’s, but sadly Bruce was killed testing one of these cars at Goodwood in JUNE 1970.

the CanAm & V8 Sports Cars class has been dominated by the international visitors with race 1 being clearly taken by the track width 1971 March 717 drive by the UK’s Richard Dodiems. The March 717 was one of the last of the mighty canam cars built – with its 8.8 litre engine giving a bit of get up and go. Richard didn’t have it all his own was in qualifying on Friday though as Australia’s Steve Webb took pole in the Elfin 360 Repco.

The Formula Junior and invited F3 car grid started the weekend with a capacity field of 42 cars, but mechanical dramas have hit some. A large contingent of the very enthusiast Australian’s have made the journey for this category, which has seen Don Thallon (MRC) and Peter Struass (Brabham BT6) running in the top 6 with Bill Hemming (Elfin Catalina) just outside the top ten in 11th and Kim Shearn(Lotus 18) taking a class win. David Reid from Queensland spent most of Friday and all of Saturday working on replacing the engine in his Cooper T59, and Roger Ealand has kept wife Margaret trackside for consecutive 12-hour days as he repairs a broken diff in the Gemini Mk2.

Report by: Charles Rogers / Historic Racing Australia

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