Timaru race fans get rare chance to see classic touring cars in action

It’s not everyday that local motor racing enthusiasts can get to see the actual car (a 2-door BMW E36 coupe) that legendary UK driver Tim Harvey drove the year he won the British Touring Car Championship (1992). Or a unique Wolf Motorsport-built Ford Mondeo hatchback Super Tourer which ran in the German 2 litre Touring Car Championship in period. Or, for that matter, the Nissan Primera the late Jason Richards drove for Team Kiwi in the NZ 2 litre Touring Car championship in 1999.

So, it’s not hard to see why there is so much anticipation amongst race fans in South Canterbury this week ahead of the big Thunder Down Under motor racing meeting at Timaru’s Levels Raceway this weekend.

Brett Stevens (Gp A Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500) leads a race at the Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch’s Mike Pero Motorsport Park last year. Photo: Euan Cameron Photography

This is the first year in the three that the Historic Touring Car (NZ) Association has kicked off its annual Archibald’s-backed Historic Touring Car Series at the popular annual South Canterbury Car Club meeting and the 12-strong field is packed with a veritable smorgasbord of historically significant cars from the recent past.

Included in this catch-all group are the two most familiar to Kiwi fans, Group A (1985-92) and Super Tourers (1992 to 2000), as well as Group C (Australia) and NZTC (NZ’s own 2 litre Touring category)

Each era had its iconic cars. Group A, for instance, is represented by the E30 model BMW M3 driven by Arron Black from Mosgiel., the distinctive yellow ex Kevin Waldock Australian Touring Car Championship Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth of keen Motueka classic touring car owner and driver Brett Stevens, and the replica Nissan Skyline GT-R AWD of Amberley ace Stu Rogers.

To see just how quickly the cars morphed from modified road cars to purpose-built race machines, meanwhile, you only have to compare and contrast the earlier model E36 BMW Super Tourers of Warren Good (the 2-door ex Tim Harvey BTCC winner and the 4-door ex-Tony Longhurst Australian Super Tourer Championship model of Matthew O’Donnell)with some of the later model cars entered.

Matthew O’Donnell from Christchurch driving his ex-Tony Longhurst BMW 320i Super Tourer at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park Photo: Richard Dimmock

This list includes the ex-Paul Radisich BTCC Peugeot 406 of Dunedin driver Stephen Grellet (main picture) and the later model ex Rickard Rydell/Jim Richards’ Bathurst-winning Volvo S40 of Mathew’s father Lindsay O’Donnell and the Nissan Primera Super Tourer now owned and raced by Murray Sinclair from Christchurch.

It will also be interesting to see how the three cars built for New Zealand’s own 2 litre Touring Car Championship series rules in period perform on the tight, technical Levels circuit.

Local driver Kevin Pateman still owns and drives the distinctive red Ford Telstar he and his brother built and raced when it was new and going on the form he showed in the car last year he should revel in the rare chance to run the V6-powered Ford on his home circuit.

That’ said, the late Jason Richards proved that the Angus Fogg-built Team Kiwi Nissan Primera was a winner in period and though he is new to the Archibald’s series this season the car’s driver – Invercargill’s Liam McDonald – has a contemporary race CV which includes back-to-back wins in the Class 2 category of the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship.

David Beattie is also fresh to the series, but is simply looking for a chance to get some racing in behind the wheel of his NZ 2 litre Touring Car-spec Toyota Corona.

Group A BMW E30 M3 vs Super Tourer-spec BMW E36 320i at Teretonga as Arron Black from Dunedin holds out Bruce Miles from Christchurch. Photo: Richard Dimmock

The Archibald’s Historic Touring Cars join a number of other high profile racing categories on a packed Thunder Down Under programme at Levels Raceway this weekend.

Included are NZ Super Trucks, Central and Mainland Muscle Cars and South Island 2K Cup.

The three-round Archibald’s Historic Touring Car Series continues at the 30th annual Skope Classic motor racing meeting in Christchurch over the Feb 01-02 weekend and concludes at the George Begg Classic Speedfest at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park a fortnight later (Feb 15-16 weekend).

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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