Ford’s motorsport heritage to be celebrated at Taupo Historic GP meeting in January

The fifth edition of the Taupō Historic GP next January will continue the now annual tradition of celebrating a marque of car each year – and for 2021, it will be Ford.

The idea of a marque celebration was the suggestion of Jim Barclay and Tony Roberts, directors of the annual Festivals of Motor Racing that ran from 2010 to 2016.

Ford had been in their long-term thinking for some years so, in conjunction with Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park owners TMP Ltd, the decision was taken to test the appetite for celebrating the marque that is, without doubt, the most synonymous of all with New Zealand motorsport.

The New Zealand arm of the famed Dearborn, Michigan manufacturer has supplied and supported Ford cars and teams for more than 70 years, both on the country’s motor racing circuits with the likes of the Ford Dealer touring car team of the 1980s and ‘90s, and the famous Masport Escort team that contested selected rounds of the World Rally Championship in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Ford New Zealand has also supported the careers of single-seater champions like World Touring Car title winner, Paul Radisich with their famous Ford-Cosworth 1.6 litre BDA engine in his Formula Atlantic campaigns in the 1990s.

Persuading now-retired Ford Motor Company senior executive Garry Jackson to join the 2021 organising committee was a major coup for Roberts, Barclay and the TMP team. With many years’ involvement in Ford motorsport dating back to the Masport Escort team, then as manager of Ford’s involvement in Touring Car, Formula Atlantic, Formula Ford, and the Escort Sport and Laser series, no one was better qualified than Jackson to identify and locate the historic cars that could truly celebrate Ford motorsport.

Garry remains as active as ever in Ford motoring affairs through his role as president of the Canterbury Mustang Owners’ Club that this year hosts the National Mustang Convention. He believes the 2021 Taupō Historic GP will be a hit.

“For years motorsport enthusiasts have, at some time or another, leaned on a farmer’s fence beside a rally stage or sat in a grandstand or on the grass at race track identifying with their favourite Ford. Whether it was the RS1600 Mk 1 Escorts, the Mustang notchbacks of the 1960s, the PDL Mustang Fastbacks of the 1970s and ‘80s, or Paul Fahey’s giant-killing RS2600 Capri, enthusiasts everywhere can think of their favourite Ford” says Jackson.

“And the older generation can even recall the ‘Specials’ of the 1950s and early ‘60s, many of which featured Ford power”.

The 1951 GeeCeeEss Special’ Photo credit: Roger Herrick

One of the most famous examples of the “Specials”, the Ford-powered GeeCeeEss designed, developed and driven by Auckland’s George Smith between 1951 and 1957, will make its appearance at the Taupo circuit in January after a meticulous re-build to 1951 specification by current owner Roger Herrick.

Herrick’s affinity with the GeeCeeEss dates back to his days as a child, staring through the window of his father’s central city office across the road from Smith’s workshop on St Benedict’s Street. Herrick clearly recalls watching with interest the GeeCeeEss and other “Specials” coming and going from the shop.

“When the opportunity came up to buy the car from then ‘caretaker’ Bill Clark, I leapt at it” says Herrick.

Included in the iconic Fords models and Ford-powered cars expected to appear at the 2021 Taupō Historic GP is an example of the last Formula One car raced by New Zealand’s only World Champion, the late Denny Hulme; the Ford-Cosworth DFV-powered McLaren M23 now owned by the Giltrap family.

Ford races and on-track demonstrations will feature the numerous models of Zephyrs, Anglias, Cortinas, Mustangs, Escorts, Capris and Falcons that have graced race tracks and rally stages around New Zealand for over 60 years.

The single-seater races will include 1967 to 1988 examples of the world’s most successful junior category, Formula Ford. It was in Formula Ford that some of New Zealand’s most successful international drivers including Scott Dixon, Earl Bamber, Shane Van Gisbergen, Greg Murphy and Craig Baird honed the skills that took them to numerous championship and race titles around the world.

The late Denny Hulme’s Ford-Cosworth McLaren M23, here driven by two-time World Champion at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park Taupō, January 2007. Photo credit: Richard Gee

As well as grids for iconic Fords and Ford-powered cars over the three-day event, racing at the 2021 Taupō Historic GP will include:

-Formula 5000s, the iconic stock-block 5-litre V8 single-seater category that dominated single-seater racing in NZ, Australia, the United States and the UK from the late 1960s to 1976;
-Historic Muscle Cars and Historic Saloon Cars, the FIA Group 2 and Group 5 touring cars that contested the New Zealand Saloon Car Championships in the late 1960s and early 1970s;
-Formula Juniors and Sports Racing Cars from 1958 to the late 1960s.

Qualifying for the 2021 Taupō Historic GP meeting starts on Friday 22nd January with racing getting underway at 9:30 on Saturday the 23rd. The racing re-commences at 9:15 on Sunday the 24th with the Historic GP title race for Formula 5000s scheduled to start at around 2:30 p.m.

General Admission adult prices are $20.00 Saturday, $25.00 Sunday and $40.00 for a weekend pass. The souvenir programme featuring comprehensive histories of the categories racing costs $10.00. Included in General Admission is car-parking and access to the Pit Lane Complex First Floor Tauhara Suite and rooftop viewing areas, the pit/paddock, and all usual GA spectator areas.

As a special “thank you” to the Ford-owner clubs organising displays and track tours by their members, special parking and display areas will be reserved for cars bearing Ford’s famous “Blue Oval”.

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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