Good, better, best of 2018

I copped a bit of flak from some quarters last month for naming Toyota’s Prado VX Ltd the 4WD of The Year in the magazine I edit, NZ4WD’s, annual ‘Best-of-2018 feature’

“But it’s been around for years. Shouldn’t your awards go to ‘new’ models?” said a marketing exec from one company (which – obviously by pure coincidence – had just such an all-new model in its line-up but which they hadn’t thought to offer me a drive in one).

“It’s getting a bit long in the tooth, now,” said another, again from a company just entering the market Prado has dominated for close to 30 years…….

As it turned out;

1) Toyota was one of the only companies to think that it was worth inviting the Editor of NZ4WD to the launch of a 4WD model (@#$%^&*)…….. and

2) As part of that launch the company put together a proper 4WD drive programme which saw us spend a morning traversing tracks in the Oteake Conservation Area between the Mackenzie Country and the Maniototo.

Sure there are definitely newer, and arguably better large family (Prado is a true 7-seater) 4WDs available, but I can only consider candidates that I am offered to drive, either at a launch or later as part of a press test programme.

In much the same way I think it would be a bit of a have if I was to name Brendon Hartley, Scott Dixon, or even Hayden Paddon as three of my ‘Drivers of the Year.’

For a start I haven’t;

1) actually attended a Formula 1 race for 5 or 6 years now, and

2) I didn’t manage to get myself to a round of the Brian Green NZ Rally championship (or the Ashley Forest Rallysprint) that the Haydster competed at this year.

So I haven’t been able to see with my own eyes just how good either really is in their chosen discipline.

What I have done is attended a hell of a lot of kart meetings, grassroots drift days, rounds of the D1NZ National drifting championship, and the Virgin Australia Supercars championship round at Pukekohe.

I have also followed both the Formula Drift US and Formula Drift Japan championship series via livestream on Facebook, and the WRC and both MotoGP and World Superbikes on Sky TV. And, I have covered the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, Targa Hawke’s Bay and Targa NZ plus – this year – the eight-day NZ Silver Fern Rally.

So what I miss out on the Big Ticket items like F1, WEC and Indycar I’d like to think I make up for at a more real-world level….much like I do in my ‘day job,’ editing NZ4WD magazine! And picking the Prado over the new Jeep Wrangler or Land Rover Discovery (neither which, bizarre as it might seem, I have been offered a drive in)!

So, let me take a minute to find and wiggle into my (obviously now well-worn and pock-marked) flak jacket, and start firing off my ‘Good, better, best of missiles for the calendar year 2018:

Top 5 drivers

Scott McLaughlin. For putting together the perfect Virgin Australia Supercars championship campaign – on and off the track.
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett. For (finally) winning the 2018 Formula Drift Japan title, and doing it his way – like a Boss!
Shane Van Gisbergen – For always giving 110% and never, EVER, backing off, out, or down!
Glenn Inkster – Now a five-time consecutive winner of Targa NZ – with NO pace notes and a rudimentary route book the guy has got to be one of our best.
Ken Smith – Still crazy after all these years? He’s still lightning quick, if that’s what you mean! Ken is a force of nature, on as well as off the track.

Predictions for 2019

Formula E series will finally shake off ‘oddity’ status, just in time for Auckland to get a round in 2020/21
Interest in Formula 1 will dwindle as coverage moves from Sky to web
KartSport will continue to produce more and more world-class drivers
D1NZ series will have a round in Australia ahead of a full Trans-Tasman series in 2020/21
Clubs will dwindle in number and influence, making way for professional promotors
Major changes in the promotional landscape will see new sanctioning body/bodies arrive on scene
Grassroots drift events like Zeroclass Drift Matsuris at Taupo will get even bigger as the line between serious competition and serious fun continues to blur.

Kiwi drivers likely to shine in 2019 (aside from the obvious ones)

Tom Alexander (Aust utes or Supercars)
Willie Bamber (Carrera Cup Asia)
Haydn Mackenzie (Targa)
Josh Bethune (karts & cars)
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt (karts)

Best passing move/s 2018

Scott McLaughlin, Barbagallo Sunday race, from P19 on the gird to P1 when the chequered flag came out.

Best driver quote of the year

“F..k, finally!” said Kimi Raikkonen after claiming his first win in 100 F1 starts in the USGP at Austin this year

Best Car of the Year

Leda LT27 001 F5000.

Original and best genuine Graham McRae race and Tasman Series winning car, owned by Alistair Hey, brought back to gorgeous ‘STP pink’ life by local specialists Motorsport Solutions and driven like the wind by SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series young gun Michael Collins.

Best results and why?

Daniel Bray – 2nd in CIK-FIA KZ2 Super Cup final in Belgium

No resident NZ karter, let alone one who holds down a full-time job running other karters here and in Australia, has done what Daniel has for the past 10 years now – jetted in and out of the US and Europe and driven as a member of a works team to achieve podium positions (1st in the US and 3rd and now 2nd in Europe) against the world’s best drivers. Respect Barry, respect!

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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