Flying Kiwis

I always had a passion for motoring and in 1970 took up motorsport as a keen 18-year-old. Modified Minis and MG’s were what I usually competed with and after about ten years these cars were becoming a little ‘Long in the tooth’ – even in New Zealand!

After a brief hiatus from motorsport competition, in which I honed my photographic and freelance journalism skills at race events, I noticed a revival of interest in older cars by the racing fraternity and the race going public – the early days of what is now called Classic Racing.

I took part in my Midget in the Perrier Le Mans Classic Teams Race at Pukekohe on 21 August 1983, which was organised by Marsden Robinson. We had raced together for years and worked in well with motorsport networking.

I knew a couple of other classic car enthusiasts in Auckland who put on large events for older cars at venues such as Pukekohe, and the RNZAF air bases at Ohakea and Whenuapai.

The interest showed by the public was immense and large crowds came along to witness cars they had not seen in decades competing.

However, these were one-off events and I thought about the logistics of running a Classic Car Racing Series at national race meetings, in the North Island over the summer months.

The idea appealed to a large number of would-be regular competitors who I knew in the early 1980’s. I then had to find circuit promoters who were as keen about this idea as I was. Some race promoters said that they felt that there were already too many classes of racing formulae on the programmes; others simply dragged the chain when it came to making a decision about running with the concept.

I eventually found a keen bunch of people running the then fledgling Taupo Motor Race Circuit in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. This venue is now called the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, but in the mid-1980’s it was a struggling club circuit whose members had only just got the venue sealed – and a lap of the circuit was a little under one mile!

The Taupo people gave us the break that we wanted. It was agreed that the classic cars would appear at all three national motorsport meetings that they held over the summer, with two races at each meeting: one scratch and one handicap race.

The rules concerning what cars met the classic criteria were quite open, with one limitation being that cars must be derived from a model-run that was at least 20 years old. Another rule, that was strongly enforced, was that modifications must be ‘contemporary’ and the cars must also ‘look’ as if they were from the classic era.

The first race meeting was planned at The Taupo Motor Race Circuit for 23 November 1986. The race promoters stated that they had permission to form up 28 cars on the grid – a rule that was strictly enforced by the New Zealand motorsport authorities at the time.

I initially tried to attract enough cars of all makes, to co-ordinate an Intermarque Classic Car Series. Two weeks out from the very first meeting I was contacted by worried committee members from the Taupo Car Club, saying that there were around 45 classic car entries received and they wanted to give the job of culling the entries to me.

Looking over the list, I noticed that many of the cars entered were BMC in origin. I didn’t like the idea of saying no to anyone that was keen to race, so I came up with the concept of running a second series, specifically for the BMC cars, which then soaked up the overflow of entries.

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The BMC Experience Issue 20. Jan-Mar 2017 Magazine


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