This weekend’s NZ Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs belonged to Ken Smith but next year the Waikato circuit will celebrate all things Bathurst. Hampton Downs owner Tony Quinn is excited about bringing the cars and stars from the iconic Australian racetrack to New Zealand.
“It’s been a great weekend for the NZ Festival of Motor Racing, one of the best ever,” says Quinn. “It’s been a wonderful tribute to Kenny Smith but we’re already looking forward to next year. Bathurst holds a special place in the hearts of everyone involved in motorsport in New Zealand and Australia. Everyone has their favourite Bathurst moment and some of the best drivers in this part of the world made a name for themselves around Mount Panorama including legends of the sport like Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and Jim Richards.”
“The festival will still celebrate classic cars but there will be a big emphasis on Ford and Holden and other cars synonymous with Bathurst. On the Sunday afternoon we might have a handicap race featuring cars from the different decades, from the 1960s through to the present day. As well as some famous cars that have raced around Panorama, we’ll also try and get the likes of Dick Johnson, Jim Richards, Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy, Shane van Gisbergen and others who have driven at Bathurst to come to Hampton Downs for the festival.”
Grant Dalton, the boss of Emirates Team New Zealand falls under that category. Dalton raced at Bathurst for the first time last year in his 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. The sailing supremo has been involved in the Central Muscle Cars category for the last four years and he enjoyed his weekend at the NZFMR.
“I finished 4th in the first race of the day I’m slowly coming to grips with the car,” says Dalton. “I’ve gone a bit better this weekend than I have done for a while. Motorsport is a passion for me. I wouldn’t call it an escape because I’ve got the best job in the world.”
“I’ve always been into motorbikes and I loved watching guys like Barry Sheene and Graeme Crosby. Graeme was one of the guys I looked up to growing up and now he helps me out with my bikes which is pretty cool. I’ve raced in the Isle of Man TT for the last three years and that’s an incredible experience. The people that do road racing over there are nuts in the nicest possible way and there’s nothing to compare to coming down Bray Hill on the TT course.”
Not even a rough day on the high seas in an America’s Cup yacht?
“That’s not scary,” says Dalton. “Bray Hill is scary. Even Bathurst wasn’t quite daunting as I thought it would be. You can only go so fast when you’re winding your way down the hill at Mt Panorama.”
On the track at Hampton Downs today Ken Smith continued his dominance with six wins from six races to add to his four wins yesterday. At a celebration dinner at Hampton Downs last night, Tony Quinn presented Smith with a lifetime membership of the Waikato circuit. Quinn was planning to race Smith for the membership but a mechanical failure to his car put paid to that plan.
“If anyone deserves a lifetime membership it’s Kenny but he’s 75 now so it might not be a bad investment on my part,” joked Quinn. “In all seriousness, the guy is a deadset legend and this weekend has proven he’s got plenty of racing left in him.”