Smith makes return to Formula Open NZ at Legends of Speed event

As Formula Open New Zealand enters its penultimate round this weekend at Hampton Downs as part of the HRC Legends of Speed celebration, it is shaping up to be FONZ’s best meeting yet. The event celebrates multiple Grand Prix and Tasman Cup winner Graeme Lawrence and family and will see the return of Graeme’s best mate, the iconic Kenny Smith.

What makes it more special is that Kenny is bringing out his 1990 NZ International Grand Prix winning Swift DB4 Formula Atlantic. Having been stored in pieces for over thirty years, Kenny has undertaken a full ground up rebuild. The result is quite breath-taking and will be a treat to watch as this will not be a demonstration run as he is fully fired up and cannot wait to get amongst the youngsters in the ex TRS cars as well as the other Formula Atlantics.

However, what is adding real spice to this meeting is the return of the Dean Hall’s Phillips Car Stereo sponsored Swift DB4 that won the 1989 NZIGP piloted by Kaleb Ngatoa, arguably one of NZ’s most talented young drivers.

This is another famous Formula Atlantic that has undergone a ground up rebuild only recently completed by Ron McMillan and Mark (Jandals) Sheehan. Make no mistake, this is real history repeating as these two iconic cars go head-to-head again 34 year after they last met. Ngatoa is not taking anything for granted and has the utmost respect for the 3 x NZIGP winner especially as he is now driving his favourite of all race cars.

To add to the atmosphere of the meeting, Dean Hall will be here to watch his old car being piloted by the hard charging young Kiwi.

For those that have been following FONZ will appreciate how the series has grown and how competitive it is with this meeting having four Tatuus FT40’s campaigning for the Jim Palmer Cup and five FT50’s campaigning in the Graeme Lawrence Cup.

The seven Formula Atlantics will take pride of place for this meeting as Graeme Lawrence not only raced Atlantics in Asia, but he also ran very successful Formula Atlantic teams in the New Zealand series as well, running drivers such as Dean Hall, Davy Jones, Paul Tracey, Jos Verstappen as well as many others.

This is one race meeting you do not want to miss as there are many other great classes such as HVRA, Historic Formula Ford, Historic Sports Sedans, Formula First, BMW, Historic Touring Cars, European Racing Classic and all these classes will turn on great racing.

However, for sheer speed, noise and close racing the FONZ racers will be the stars of the show and have the crowds spell bound watching these wings and slicks machines slip streaming each other and going side by side at speeds well in excess of 200kmh.

Due to the fast-flowing nature of the Hampton Downs track, the wheel-to-wheel dices will be spectacular. The ex TRS FT50’s match the Formula Atlantics for lap times and are slightly faster on the straights but cannot live with the ground effect cars through the fast-flowing corners. Whilst the FT40’s are the fastest of all three cars on the straights, it ensures great cat and mouse dices.

Friday is a full test day with FONZ having qualifying and two 12-ap races on Saturday with an 18-lap feature race on Sunday afternoon.  

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