Motorsport: Racing legends in action

Chris Amon with his 'Batmobile' BMW. Photo / Supplied
Chris Amon with his 'Batmobile' BMW. Photo / Supplied

BMWs in many different forms and from many different eras will be the stars of January's Festival of Motor Racing.

Following on from recent success, the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing is having another action-packed outing over two weekends next year at Hampton Downs.

The two events will be on January 20-22 and January 27-29.

Fans will see cars spanning decades of worldwide motor racing history at New Zealand's newest and most demanding circuit. Many of the cars will have been part of the New Zealand race scene in the formative years of the sport.

Aside from all the glorious cars on show, the event attracts plenty of names from the past and present of motor racing, giving a rare chance to see world-famous drivers in a wide range of cars.

The first two festivals paid homage to New Zealand driving legends Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon; next year's festival honours a car manufacturer BMW, which has a rich motor racing history in New Zealand and abroad.

As is the case each year, the festival is about the cars and the drivers, and there will be some legendary names from BMW motorsport and New Zealand motorsport at each weekend's event.

Chris Amon will attend once again, this time to mark his own links to the German brand.

Touring car legend Jim Richards is also down to race, as are other notable BMW racers of the time.

But it's not all about BMWs. There is much more to see and do especially with drivers from the Britain, the United States Canada, Monaco and Australia again making the trip with their bellowing Formula 5000 beasts as they again try to best 70-something Kiwi racing legend Kenny Smith.

The New Zealand-based F5000 series is widely regarded as the best of its kind in the world for these 1960s and 1970s monsters.

With 30-plus cars lining up on the grid for both weekends, the Hampton Downs event has become one of the premier race meetings on the world calendar for the class.

This is no moving museum - the cars are well prepared, highly tuned, and immaculately presented, and they will be rubbing wheels as hard as any other class of racing over the two weekends.

When the lights go out and the pedal hits the metal it'll be like climbing into a time machine and going back to the heyday of the class in the 1970s.

For next year, Kenny Smith will be re-united with the car that he made his name when racing the category - the mighty Lola T332.

Something new and exciting for the festival will be the first appearance at the event of the domestic historic BMW racing series.

Run for mainly three and five series racers of varying vintages, it is an illustration of how popular the brand is in New Zealand, and it will be a feature part of both weekends of racing at Hampton Downs.

It is the success story of motor sport in New Zealand in recent years. During times when other racing classes have dwindled or stagnated in the face of economic pressures, the BMW series has thrived.

In the five years since it was formed, it has gone from modest grids of eight to 10 cars to three full grids.

Several former BMW Motorsport drivers will be at the festival.

These drivers drove in the Nissan Mobil 500 at Wellington and Pukekohe in the 1980s and 1990s. Many also featured in the Benson & Hedges series and ANZ Touring car series in the 1980s, and the NZ Touring Car series of the 1980s and 1990s.

Confirmed names are Rodger Anderson, Paul Fahey, Steve Millen, Neville Crichton, Wayne Wilkinson, Kent Baigent, Neil Lowe, Graeme Crosby, Jim Richards, Tony Lawrence, Phil Myhre (Brunei), Jim Keogh (Australia), Ludwig Finauer (Australia), Ed Lamont, Graeme Cameron, Paul Radisich, John Sax, Brett Riley, Craig Baird, Keith Sharp and Bernie Gillon.

Static BMW displays will also be an attraction of the event, with the legendary BMW CSL Batmobile taking the centre stage.

As far as rare and valuable cars go, there are few to match this particular beast.

It's an ex-works car once piloted by the likes of Amon and Hans Stuck, and it is still owned by the BMW factory.

It is one of dozens of pieces of incredibly valuable machinery that visitors will be able to inspect at close range.

This ability to get a close-up view is one of the main attractions of the festival in a day and age when public access to drivers and cars is usually blocked by a fence, and is one of the main reasons so many people flocked to the event in the first two years.

BMW NZ will also bring from the BMW Museum in Germany a race version of the rare BMW M1 ProCar.

This car was raced by Prince Leopold von Bayern in the late 1970s, and the prince will be demonstrating it at the second weekend of the Festival.

Earlybird tickets are available from www.nzfmr.co.nz until the end of this month.

- NZ Herald

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