NaZCAR – The best little racing series you’re only just finding out about now!

That’s correct. In my humble opinion (IMHO) anyway. Having now spent two weekends over the past two months getting (right) up close and personal with pretty much everyone involved in the first two (of three) of independent Auckland-based motorsport event organiser and promotor Dr Jacob (pronounced ‘Yaaa cob’) Simonsen’s latest NaZCAR 3 and 6 Hr Pro Series endurance races at Hampton Downs I have to say I’m impressed.

Since ‘the good Dr’ first arrived back ‘home’ in New Zealand after spending a fair chunk of the previous 10 years building a career in global event management and logistics overseas, he has devoted himself to the Don Quixotic-like cause of cutting (what since I’ve started using big, flash, business article-type words I might as well finish) the ‘compliance’ cost (and with it a lot of the ‘BS’ and ‘gamesmanship’ the rest of us used to blithely accept as part of the process) of buying and running  a ‘racing car’ (or a ‘car to race’) on the local scene.

Not for him, fortunately, the attractions of – say – another Batterytown Porsche GT3 Cup. Or for that matter, (yet) another cookie-cutter one-make series based on cars costing upwards of $60K to buy and the same again to run – more if you take into account the inevitable ‘crash damage.’

On the contrary when he decided to put his money where his mouth is and introduce a new series to Kiwis, he chose a category more ‘event’ than ‘motor race,’ the LeMons 24 Hours.

Based on cars (where the term Lemon originally came from) costing no more than $1,000 to purchase the first 24-hour race was actually a non-continuous affair held over two days…to make sure at least one team made the distance.

The fact that most of the field did – finish – and also had a jolly old fine time dressing themselves and their cars up, not only gave Dr Jacob the confidence to organise subsequent 24-Hour events and now the slightly more serious Pro Series, but it also prompted him to seek out an alternative sanctioning body to MotorSport NZ.

That process, saw him create an all new, and independent body, the Australasian Auto-Sport Alliance, a 100 percent NZ-owned-and-operated branch of Australia’s AASA, which now sanctions all Targa NZ events as well as all Dr Jacob’s events (which, btw, since earlier this year have been re-grouped under his new NaZCAR brand).

In case you’re a hopeless cynic or pride yourself as constantly being labelled a ‘hater’ on Facebook, Twitter, Insta etc, I have to point out that ‘Dr Jacob’ has actually created a monster or sorts – his next continuous 24 Hour race – due to kick off, Covid-19-willing, on Saturday Sept 24 has attracted a record 110 (individual car) entries and with close to 600 drivers expected to front up for the event it has the potential to be the biggest mass participation motor race event New Zealand has ever seen.

Not a bad sort of business in only its sixth year of operation run by a bloke who swears he is only in it for the fun.

What I particularly like about his latest off-shoot, the NaZCAR Pro Series is that it gives the members of his target audience – largely males 45 years and over by the look of it – who have finally managed to turn that latent inner desire to be a ‘racing driver’ into reality thanks to the low, low entry cost of a 2KCup ($2,000), a LeMons ($1,000) or the next step up, a ‘Lime’ ($2,000) car, the opportunity to do more with their car than ‘theme the crap out of it and try and make its ageing engine and drivetrain last for 24 Hours.’

By sharing the driving – and presumably the cost of running it through a three round 3 and 6 Hour campaign well before the big annual 24 extravaganza, you get a  wealth of ‘tell-the-grandchildren’ moments, like the one Mel Chamberlain, Phill Dravitski and David Cox can share about winning their class (Class 4) in their little 2004 Mazda 3 4-door and heading to the final round equal on points with two of the three Top Dog teams in the quicker classes, the Team Fourteen Suzuki Swift GTi of Marcus Heke and Dillon Grant (leading Class 3) and the BMW E36 of Team Trump Support pair Andrew Ayre and Greg Honnor (the outright winners as well as leading Class 2 contenders).

Legendary Auckland area driver ‘Racing’ Ray Williams has teamed up with Honda tuner Jacky Tse in Tse’s distinctive orange 4-door Civic Type R but after winning their class (Class 1) at the opening series round in July, they ended up classified 14th overall in the 6 Hr part of the race at the second round after losing at least half an hour trying to sort out an alternator issue.

The fact that by far the majority of entrants in the two Pro Series rounds held so far got their start in the sport in one of Dr Jacob’s  novelty 24 Hour events suggest something that I have always suspected; and that is, if you provide a bunch of good keen Kiwi blokes (and yes the odd blokesse as well) with a compelling yet cost-effective competition, based around a car he or she can afford to buy and run, with community rugby club-style camaraderie before and after an event and plenty of seat time in it,  you will literally have – at some stage – to consider beating punters who want to join the fun off with a stick.

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 contract media work with weekend Mountain Bike missions and trips to grassroots drift days.

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