Leadfoot Festival: Fast and fearless on ultimate driveway

By Matt Greenop

Rod Millen's Hahei driveway is 1.6km long and the setting for the first public Leadfoot Festlival this weekend. Photo / Alastair Ritchie
Rod Millen's Hahei driveway is 1.6km long and the setting for the first public Leadfoot Festlival this weekend. Photo / Alastair Ritchie

When most Kiwi dads race their kids up the driveway it's likely to involve a skateboard, Jandals and a quick visit to the emergency doc - but the Millens do things a bit differently.

Motorsport veteran Rod Millen - winner of numerous motorsport titles and record holder at the legendary Pikes Peak International Hillclimb for many years - is running a race this weekend at his Coromandel property in which all manner of machinery will be going for gold up a mile-long drive purpose-built for fast fun.

Pit Rod against son Rhys - Dukes of Hazzard stuntman, drift champ and Pikes Peak campaigner - and occasional racer, youngest son Ryan, and there's always rivalry. But, in hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of machinery, it's a far cry from the typical Kiwi game of backyard cricket.

For his 60th birthday last year, Millen invited a lucky few to compete, and quite a few more to watch, as his labour-of-love drive was christened with two days of racing called the Leadfoot Festival.

Everything from Millen's incredible 900hp Pikes Peak Celica to V8 Escorts, rare Porsche race cars and some classic 50s single seaters took a run up the hill.

The sheer scope of the Leadfoot Festival is impressive - the driveway-cum-circuit is 1.6km long, took 12,000 sq m of hotmix to create the perfect seal and around 31,500 man hours to complete. There are 16 corners, some of which are modelled on Rod's favourites from his years of competition.

A visit to the UK's Goodwood Festival of Speed inspired a plan that has turned a family property in idyllic Hahei into an awesome racetrack, and the venue for a limited public event opening this year.

"The original plan when the Hahei property was purchased was to enjoy a unique rural coastal property," said Millen. It was only after visiting Goodwood we realised there was an opportunity to create a driveway worth racing."

Worth racing it is - there are 107 vehicles on the list for the three-day event, which begins this Friday, big names and seriously sweet vehicles.

Millen will run his Celica, Tundra race truck and a restored RX3; Greg Murphy is in a SuperTourer; Clark Proctor will race a 1973 March 73A and his 1973 Targa Escort; Nelson Marshall's competing in a Ferrari F355 Challenge. Paul Sundberg will pilot a Ferrari F40 and a 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C Monza; visiting luminary Juan Fangio Jnr will be driving a 1958 F/J Fiat; Wally Parks NHRA Museum boss Tony Thacker will tackle the hill in "El Caballo", a 1927 Ford Roadster that chews up expensive Italian sports cars.

Rally fans will be pleased to see the ex-Possum Bourne WRC Subaru piloted by Emma Gilmour, and Andrew Hawkeswood's Audi S1 replica (as seen on the cover of Driven) and his 700hp, ex-Pikes Peak Evo 8.

Kiwi speedway legend Ivan Mauger will be attending, and a host of motorbikes will show what two-wheel racers are capable of up the challenging course. Even ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons will be in Hahei for the first Leadfoot Festival.

The record for the festival road fittingly belonged to Millen at the "trial run" for the expanded format this year. He admits there are plenty of rivals for the record, but with that fire-breathing Celica hitting speeds of 160km/h three times on the tight, twisting road, it could be tough to take his record on the ultimate driveway away from him.

- NZ Herald

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