Michael takes the Lyons share at Hampton Downs festival

| 24 Jan 2014

The theme for the 2014 two-weekend Classic Motor Racing Festival at New Zealand’s Hampton Downs was Ferrari. That meant some 140 road cars on display, three older GP cars (a ’94 412T1 and a pair of 156/85 turbo cars entered by Guido Belgiorno-Nettis from Australia) and appearances by Chris Amon, 1970 Tasman Champion Graeme Lawrence, Andy Buchanan (NZ sports car champ and past Surfers Paradise 12 Hour winner with Sir JYS in a 250LM) and Steve Horne (son of the first NZ Ferrari concessionaire and a top US team manager).

After a turbulent Friday that saw a large marquee used by the Historic Muscle Cars blown-inside out, the weekend itself was warm and sunny. As well as the Ferrari parades and other related festivities, there was a 31 race programe to get through. Although competitor numbers were down compared with last year (especially overseas entries), there was plenty of quality and variety across the board. The headline F5000 race had 21 entries, all 5-litre cars except for Greg Thornton’s Thursday-liveried March-Cosworth and Belgiorno-Nettis’s ex-Alboreto Ferrari.

The Lyons family excelled itself by bringing three F5000s for Frank, Judy and Michael – and a 308GTB Challenge car. Michael and his Lola T400 took out all three races for the big single-seaters, although the locals will say that his task was eased by veteran driver and 2013 winner Ken Smith having a mechanical derangement in his T332 before the end of the first race of the weekend. Clark Proctor in his March 73A-1 worked his way to a fighting 2nd in the main 15 lap race, followed by Steve Ross’s McRae GM1 and Andrew Higgins’s T400 (one of three ex-Viceroy team cars in the race). 

The young Lyons also won two races in the 308 but was bested by Paul McCarthy’s rapid Lotus 47 in Sunday’s first race for the pre-78 sports and GT cars. The two of them changed places constantly, with Lyons snatching the lead late and then going off track towards the end of the last lap leaving McCarthy with a superb victory. Another giant-killer was Howard Wood whose BMW 2002 Tii did mighty battle with the Muscle Cars whose class was shared with historic saloons. The crowd delighted at the fast nimble BMW as it held off Gimblett’s Camaro and Mathers’ Mustang for lap after lap until their power proved just too much on the last uphill run to the flag. 

Formula Fords and various saloon classes (from strictly-controlled heritage cars to the often outrageous Allcomers) made up the bulk of the race card. The latter included three cars with real NZ history: Gordon Burr’s Alfetta-Chev with the driver almost in the back seat, a re-creation of the famous Coppins Mk 2 Zephyr-Corvette with stack pipes sticking up through the bonnet, and Graeme Addis in his amazing Chrysler Charger. After a successful career as a production saloon, he turned it into an Allcomer by essentially putting the body on to an F5000 Lola chassis: this was its first race meeting in around 30 years!

Next year’s Festival theme is already settled: celebrating the career of Howden Ganley. But the 2014 event had plenty to enjoy: especially for the tifosi! 

More pictures

Australian visitor Blair Brownlee was an FF winner in his Lola T340

Allcomer saloon variety! Gordon Burr/Alfetta-Chev, Dennis Running/Mazda RX8-V8, Robert Jack/Escort V8


Paul Halford's 1954 250 was one of 140+ road Ferraris at the Festival


Words and pictures: Mark Holman