Hampton Downs is honouring NZ's sole F1 champ

The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing growls into action at Hampton Downs this weekend for the Gulf Denny Hulme Festival celebrating the only Kiwi to win a world F1 championship (in 1967).

The format allows people who miss this weekend to make the trip to the Waikato circuit next weekend, January 25-27, to catch the second part of the event.

The Hulme celebration will be supplemented by what will probably be the largest collection of Formula 5000s seen at any racetrack in the past decade.

For those not overly enamoured with the open wheelers, another collection of racecars from the same era - the mighty Can-Ams - will surely make your day. The US-based Can-Am series of the 1960s and 70s will also be relived to celebrate one of the category's biggest stars in Hulme, a Can-Am champion in 1968 and 70, and runner-up in 67, 69 and 72 driving for the great racer and constructor Bruce McLaren.


Many of the V8-powered sports cars still run in historic racing events around the world and several Can-Am racers will compete for the Denny Hulme Trophy to be presented by his widow, Greeta.

On hand to watch all the action will be former Ferrari works F1 driver Chris Amon, who plied his trade on the F1 circuits with Hulme.

"I'm looking forward to the festival and, obviously, Denny was pretty special," said Amon.

"It's nice to see they are putting the weekend on to honour him. I was only thinking this week how long old Denny has been gone and it's hard to believe it's been so long [died racing at Bathurst in 1992].

"It's a bit unfair ... he died at 56 while a few others are still going strong; Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and others in their 70s and 80s.

"Mind you when we stopped, we stopped [racing] but Denny got the bug back. I remember talking to him about those touring car things and those bloody trucks.

"I could never understand the truck thing but the touring cars I could understand."

Amon and Hulme were in the same race team at Shelby Ford for Le Mans 24 Hour but Amon drove with McLaren, winning in 1966. They also battled it out on the F1 circuit from 1965 to 1974. A great era for Kiwi F1 race car drivers, as McLaren was racing during the same era.

"Denny had the talent to have been in Formula 1 before he actually was and, when he did arrive, he was in a very good team in a top car."

As much as Amon is gracious about Hulme's success, and rightly so, it can be forgotten that Enzo Ferrari thought Amon was one of the best drivers he ever had and, to this day, the Tifosi still rate him highly.

It was just a pity the Ferrari cars were still works in progress reliability-wise back then before finally getting it right from the mid- to late 1970s.

The festival has hosted the world's biggest gathering of Formula 5000 cars for the past three years and they will be joined by a big field of original-spec Australian, New Zealand and US V8-engined Historic Muscle Cars.

The international Formula Junior and Formula Three category has attracted huge interest with two grids this weekend and a full grid of 37 for the second weekend.

Festival chairman Jim Barclay is delighted with the take-up from Formula Junior and Formula Three racers and car owners in Australia, Italy, New Zealand and UK. Marques include UK-built chassis from Brabham, Cooper, Elva, Emeryson, Gemini, Lola, Lotus; Italian-built racers from Autosud, Stanguellini, Taraschi and Volpini; Australian cars from Ausper, Donford, Elfin and Nota and the NZ-built FMZ.

A big field of 37 Historic Formula Fords will also face the starter with cars coming from Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, New Zealand and UK/Northern Ireland.

Off track, some of Hulme's other racecars and vehicles, including his famous Can-Am boat and his Scania racing truck, will be on display. The action kicks off at 9am each day.

Number 5 set to roar

Fans turning up to the New Zealand Festival of Motorsport honouring Denny Hulme will get a very real treat.

The phrase ''some things take time'' could not be more apt in this instance. After 43 years, Denny Hulme's 1968 McLaren M8A-2 Can-Am championship-winning car
will roar back into action after more than a generation of silence.

Hulme drove the bright orange number five car in six races in September and October 1968. He won three, finished second, fifth and suffered a DNF because of a broken conrod. Despite the hiccup, Hulme won the championship from the man who built the cars, Bruce McLaren.

The car was then used as a spare in 1969. Other high profile drivers at the time were Dan Gurney, Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, who won his last race in it before his death in 1970.

The same year the car was sold to American Lothar Motschen bacher who drove it in seven Can-Am races before it was damaged and written off.

Hulme brought the car to NZ in the 1970s and the Bruce McLaren Trust gained ownership in 1997. The Trust then set up funds-dependent restoration. Finally, at this weekend's festival, fans will see the car turning a few laps under its own power for the first time
since 1970.