Racing cars with roofs were always an anathema to me.

They were what my friends and I did, mainly with minis and bangers I must admit and the real racing cars were open wheel, open cockpit, single seat things.

Formula 1 cars to be precise but with the McLaren Can-Am cars running a close second.

Along came Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez the brothers who not only raced single seat Formula cars but went on to race mighty sports cars for Ferrari and Porsche during the very early 1960s. Complete with roofs and closed wheels. They captured not only my imagination but that of millions of others as these loud, incredibly powerful machines were wrestled with a grace that belied the difficulty of actually driving them.
The brothers were Mexican and came complete with the natural Latino air of bravery, talent, brooding good looks and an air of mystery. To cap it all they were fast, very fast indeed.


Perhaps it was the skinny (then) 'wannabe' kid in me but the cars, with the Rodriguez brothers driving them, inspired in me something that I feel to this day, a love of exciting close racing and the simple thrill of being involved. The experience of watching Pedro driving the Porsche 4.5 litre flat twelve engined 917K, one of the most iconic sports cars in history, in the wet, to win at Brands Hatch in the UK is truly the stuff of legend.

Sadly, Ricardo died in 1962 aged just 20 and elder brother Pedro in 1971 aged 31, both in motor racing accidents.

A young Jo Ramirez travelled to Europe with his friend Ricardo and I am fortunate to have Jo as a good friend today and when we were colleagues at McLaren he told me endless stories about the brothers. None of those stories dimmed my memories or dulled the romanticism.

Of course there was always NASCAR, but that series lost a tiny bit of it's shine when the series went to a 'stock' design of car to replace the individual 'muscle cars' of the 1960s, and nobody who witnessed it can forget those two artists Jim Clark and John Whitmore in their Lotus Cortinas managing to get the front left wheel to wave enthusiastically to the crowd as they rounded the classic 'South Bank bend' at the Brands Hatch track.

Open wheel, open cockpit racing is still the purest form of racing car for me with the very best example of that in Australasia being the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) but I have formed a great appreciation of the Virgin Australia Supercars series.

Perhaps the definition of great racing is very much in the eye of the beholder but if that definition depends on close competition, aggressive racing, talented and skilful drivers, an element of team inclusion with strategies and pit stops dependant on both engineers and mechanics, noise, pure speed and a multitude of drivers capable of actually winning in a variety of different race formats, then the Supercar series has it all.

A bit of the occasional bash and crash doesn't hurt either.

Many of the team personnel are ex Formula 1 or European open wheel racing and it is through them that I have gained an admiration for the complex and difficult nature of engineering these ultimate expressions of hairy chested racing cars and I have to admit, I love the series.


There. Straight out of the closet I have said it. I really do like the Virgin Australia Supercars series.

This past week in Auckland was held the 'official' launch of the ITM Auckland Supersprint event at Pukekohe on 3-5 November and to be even more honest it is something I look forward to each and every year.

The crowd is in itself spectacular in turnout and the racing, on a track that has seen far better days and is grossly unsuitable for the likes of the TRS, is rarely anything short of exciting.

The bumps and undulations, which according to Fabian Coulthard change a little bit every year, the kerbs and the character of the corners, suit the heavy and rumbling V8s like no other series and actually add to the reputation that Pukekohe has within the Supercars field as being one of the most challenging and enjoyable tracks on the calendar.

There is an added bonus of course with Kiwi drivers taking the lions share of the pole positions and wins in the series so far this season and the race format reverting to include refuelling but the bottom line is that there is no more exciting, nor competitive touring car series on any track anywhere in the world. In driver Rick Kelly's words "The very best racing you will see".

The Pukekohe round of the series is the biggest annual sporting event in this country and anyone who enjoys seeing the best of our young up and coming talent driving in the Toyota 86 Championship cars or those Kiwi drivers at the top of their own tree in the Supercars field, well, you have just got to be there.