Invercargill electrician Steve Heffernan may race purely for enjoyment but he has just sealed his third New Zealand Class 2 Formula Ford title.
Heffernan received the championship trophy at the recent New Zealand Motorsport Awards making it three national championships, a fine achievement. To win this season he saw off the challenge of young up and coming Christchurch driver Michael Collins, a great effort for Heffernan and his small team. However Heffernan modestly deflects the credit. “I am indebted to Sandy Kidd who works on my motors and it is normally just him and me at race meetings.” Wife Suzanne is also a great support, helping with the logistics of travelling around the country to compete. Heffernan also gives credit to his major sponsor, EIS Group. “Without them it just would not be possible.” BNT are another company who assist Heffernan’s efforts.
The current Class 2 title is for cars built before 1993 but when he won his first in 2005 the cut-off was pre-1988. That first championship was won in a Van Diemen RF87 while the other two (2013 and 2015) were won in a Van Diemen RF92.
Heffernan got into motorsport almost twenty years ago “after rugby and rugby refereeing” in an Ocelot Sports Car he and Dave Robertson built together. After the Ocelot was wrecked in a “big crash” at a hillclimb in Dunedin, Heffernan took his initial steps in the very competitive Formula Ford class. He contested the South Island series which he describes as a “great stepping stone.” In 2004 Heffernan bought a better motor for the Van Diemen RF87 and decided to have a decent crack at the National Class 2 title. He finished second to another Southlander, Noel Atley, that year but the following season he went one better. Subsequent seasons were ruined by not finishing races as Heffernan explains, “in the New Zealand Championship one DNF (non-finish) and your season is ruined. “However a good run in 2013 saw him claim his second championship and after missing the 2014 season in favour of racing at Phillip Island in Australia he returned to take title number three this season.
Heffernan describes the National Championship as fairly intense. “You have to be mentally fit and you have to accumulate points.” Perhaps it is that intensity that sees him nominate not one of his three New Zealand titles but his trip to Phillip Island in 2014 as a highlight. The car he took to Australia was the Van Diemen RF87 that he took to that first championship. The car has a special history being an ex-Greg Murphy car and the Australian meeting was huge classic race meeting. “The whole experience was amazing. There were 1000 entries and they really looked after us.”
His favourite circuit remains his home track, Teretonga. “If you set your car up for Teretonga it will go well anywhere.” After three New Zealand titles what is next for Heffernan – “just to keep doing it,” he says. He would also like to return to Phillip Island. “I have unfinished business there. Last time I melted a piston so I want to go back and finish the job.”
Media: Lindsay Beer