Hampton Downs NZ Nigel Tait 2010 (63 images)

Click a picture to see a larger view. Thanks to Nigel Tait for these images.

Bill Hemming’s reports will no doubt cover the actual race results and highlights but I thought some comments on the recent Bruce McLaren Festival events at Hampton Downs and Pukekohe might be of interest.

About 70 cars were shipped from Australia for the events, these included F5000’s, F2, FJ and FF, Tasman, and Historics of all ages (Cooper/Brabham etc.) and Canam/sports etc.  Undoubtedly this was the largest contingent of historic cars to leave Australian shores at any one time. In addition there were cars from the USA, England, Denmark, Monaco, Canada, Macau, Dubai, Scotland, and Belgium.  Most have not been seen here and were fantastic. Equally, many of the cars from our VHRR members had not been seen in New Zealand.

The Festival was run over two weekends; the first of these was at the brand new circuit of Hampton Downs, about an hour south of Auckland. The circuit itself is fabulous, with some fast and some slow corners, very smooth surface, and some hills. Though quite short, it will be extended to include a long back straight in the not too distant future. That will be better for the fast machinery. The trackside facilities are as yet very basic with all cars in tents/marquees etc. But on the front straight there are luxury 2 and 3 bedroom accommodation suites which can be purchased and which offer magnificent views of the circuit as well as , in some cases, large multi car garages. The circuit already has bookings for 42 weeks of this year.

The main marquee was trackside which made entry to the track easy. In it were about 200 cars including all 38 of the F5000’s (yes, you read that correctly!) 9 Canam cars including my Matich SR4, a turbo Indy McLaren from Aaron Lewis in NSW, several 70’s Formula one cars, Tasman open wheelers, Formula Juniors. F2 and FF. You cannot imagine the sounds when all of these were running, which seemed to be much of the time! A couple of my photos show the extent and range of cars inside this huge marquee.

Cars of special interest included the 1973 Yardley McLaren M23-01 F1 as raced by Denny Hulme, the 1974 BRM P201-02 ex Jean Pierre Beltoise, the 1976 McLaren M26-01 F1 as raced by James Hunt, and two  1971 March 717 8 litre Canam cars from England! However it is really not fair to exclude the many other cars which had been shipped from other countries, most of which have never been seen here in Australia.  I should also mention the 1972 McLaren M16B 4 cylinder turbo Offenhauser Indy car brought over by Aaron Lewis of the HRSCA. Aaron is still overcoming teething fuel supply problems in this magnificent car. Adam Berryman’s stunning Cooper Climax T70, as driven Bruce McLaren, took pride of place in the McLaren Trust marquee, though its track time was cut short by gearbox failure early in the Hampton Downs meeting.

Most of the competitors had never driven on the circuit before and were permitted to take their cars, or rental cars, for a few laps on the Thursday afternoon after the 35 approx. containers had been unloaded.

The same applied at the Pukekohe circuit the following week (in the rain) with the rental car derby proving  that rental cars definitely do perform better than “normal” cars!

My Matich SR4 was in the demonstration events which gave us 4 laps twice a day for each of the three days of both meetings with the exception of the Sunday at Pukekohe when there was a parade of McLarens and other cars associated with the late Bruce McLaren.  Most of the cars out with me were much faster, being 1971 or later F1’s so I found it best to let these guys go, though we had no speed restriction.  Everyone has their 15 seconds of fame however and on one session at Hampton Downs I passed Frank Lyons in his 1976 McLaren F1 as he struggled with slicks in the rain!

Moving to Pukekohe the next weekend saw a huge change in conditions, with the heaviest rain I have ever seen dropping a deluge on us on the Thursday and Saturday, and in fact this caused the abandonment of the last three events on the Saturday. This highlighted the age and inadequacy of the pit garage area which allowed the storm to enter from the front and the back, and through the concrete roof which leaked like a sieve! When the rain eased back to light showers it was actually better to move the cars out into the open rather than leave them under the leaking roof! Those with their own tents erected them inside. Those New Zealanders certainly were well prepared!!

Most of the cars that were at Hampton Downs were also entered for Pukekohe. I should mention in particular the fabulous 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35 50015C, one of two owned by its American driver, Peter Greenfield.  An absolutely stunning piece of machinery. I am not sure if will be at Phillip Island or the GP in the Alfa section.  The “C” stands for clone as the history of its chassis is not clear, but Peter’s other one, back home in New York, chassis 50013 is completely original.

Our numerous VHRR members had great fun and some great racing (which as I said earlier may be covered by Bill Hemming) and very few mechanical bothers. It was a fantastic two weekends of historic racing and a credit to the New Zealanders in pulling off the Festival. I understand they will repeat the effort in recognition of Chris Amon next time and the late Denny Hulme a year later.

Nigel Tait