The third annual Highlands Festival of Speed delighted several thousand spectators with great racing and a truly amazing array of motor vehicles both on and off the track during the two-day celebration of New Zealand motorsport this weekend.
“We’ve seen all kinds of cars from across the eras in action during two fantastic days of racing and on display in our vehicle show for automotive and motorsport fans to enjoy,” says Highlands’ general manager Mike Sentch. “Thanks to the passion of our race drivers and the generosity of the display car owners – and helped by two cracking days of Central Otago sunshine, we’ve once again been able to create a thoroughly enjoyable event for automotive fans of all ages.”
For many, the big field of ENZED Central Muscle Cars (CMC) provided the V8 spectacle they love. With competitors from as far afield as Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, and Invercargill in the south, the popular muscle cars enjoyed five races across the weekend. Pukekohe’s Dean Perkins featured in virtually every race in his 6.5-litre V8 Falcon, although couldn’t quite beat Christchurch’s Andy Knight in a Chevy Monza during the top ten shootout – the first that the CMC class has ever contested. Knight smashed the CMC lap record at Highlands with his time of 1 min, 42.827 sec. Perkins took out race one while the podium presentations also featured Hamilton’s Tony Galbraith in a Dodge Charger, Christchurch’s Graeme Allan in a Chevrolet Camaro, Papakura’s Sean Fowler in a Holden Torana, New Plymouth’s Ross Graham in another Torana, Porirua’s Paul Boden in a Mustang and Auckland’s Andrew Turner in a Commodore.
“For sure, the Central Muscle Cars turned it on for the Highlands crowd,” Sentch says. “We also enjoyed the real resurgence of the Pre 65 category. Their professional turnout and excellent racing was really something to see.”
In the Pre 65s, predominately from around the South Island, Christchurch’s Corey Ross won the first race in his Mustang, while father and son Wayne and Dan Patrick, driving a Falcon and a Vauxhall, shared the honours in the second and third races respectively.
“In the vintage and historic single seater category, you’d never know the drivers were in cars that are more than 50 years old. Dunedin’s Paul Coghill had some mighty battles in his 1952 Jaguar Special against Ashburton’s Russ Haines in a 1965 Frangapelli Holden.”
Honours in Formula Libre went to Invercargill’s Damon Leitch in a Ralt RT4, while Geraldine’s Milne Horne powered his Mazda RX7 to take victory in the modern classic class. Dunedin’s Allan Dippie dominated the nostalgic classic category in his immaculate MG GTS.
Highlands’ events manager Melanie Kees says: “We were really pleased with another bumper crowd of around 5000 people over the weekend enjoying the Festival of Speed. Both days the main terrace has been packed and our children’s entertainment activities have been very busy. It’s also fantastic to have had such great feedback from competitors, saying they’ve felt very welcome and enjoyed great racing at our beautiful facility.
“We’ve given away dozens of hot laps in the Highlands Lamborghini and McLaren for spectators to enjoy during the lunch break, Central Muscle Car competitors also provided hot laps in their awesome cars and one lucky ticket purchaser even won a flight over Highlands with championship-winning aerobatics pilot Ivan Krippener,” says Mrs Kees.
“It’s been a true spectacle of all that’s good about New Zealand motorsport – great competitor spirit on and off the track and many ways for spectators to enjoy getting among the action with hugely popular grid walks and free access around the pits so everyone can enjoy meeting the drivers and seeing their awesome cars up close. Thanks to everyone who’s made this year’s Festival of Speed such a success.”
The next motor racing event at Highlands Motorsport Park is the three-round grassroots Highlands Sprint Series for clubsport competitors in March and April.