The 50th anniversary of the world championship title of New Zealand’s only Grand Prix World Champion, the late Denny Hulme in 1967, is to be celebrated next January in special style with the first ever visit to this country of a field of Formula One cars from the 1960s and ‘70s.
Scheduled for the weekend of 28th and 29th January 2017, and hosted appropriately by the Taupo circuit named after Hulme’s teammate for much of his career, the late Bruce McLaren, Formula One’s inaugural visit to New Zealand will be for the period-correct pre-1978 cars that featured in so much of the careers of Hulme and McLaren as well as their fellow countrymen and heroes of F1 racing in the 1960s and ‘70s, Chris Amon and Howden Ganley.
Among the F1 cars expected from overseas is the McLaren M26 that was driven by 1976 world champion, James Hunt. The M26 now belongs to Irishman Frank Lyons, President of the Historic Sports Car Club which is responsible for much of the historic racing in Great Britain.
Also likely to appear at Taupo is an example of the M23 McLaren in which Denny Hulme took the last of his eight Grand Prix triumphs, the Swedish Grand Prix in 1974. The M23 was part of the storyline of the 2013 Ron Howard film Rush which depicted Hunt’s season-long battle for the title against Ferrari team leader, Niki Lauda.
The event will also provide an opportunity for Auckland father-and-son Peter and Aaron Burson to run the 1974 BRM P201 and 1976 BRM P207 Formula One cars they own.
Chris Amon is enthusiastic about F1 coming to his home town track.
“I’m really looking forward to the appearance of the vehicles from my era where the sound and visual experience was so much different from today,” Amon said from his Taupo residence today.
Englishman Ron Maydon is hoping to compete at Taupo in the extremely rare 1974 Amon AF101 that dates back to Chris Amon’s time as both a Grand Prix driver and constructor.
Amon has driven a number of the models and makes of car that will be represented at the race meeting and organisers will also be honouring Chris and his achievements. Amon celebrates another very special 50th anniversary this month, that of his 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours win when he and Bruce McLaren took Ford’s first-ever victory in the French classic mere inches ahead of the sister car driven by Hulme and Englishman, Ken Miles.
The Taupo race meeting will feature a revival of the Race of Champions that was held each year from 1965 to 1979 pitting F1s against the muscular Formula 5000s that are the mainstay of historic single-seater racing in this part of the world.
Doubling as a round of the extremely popular F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, the Race of Champions revival will no doubt see the local F5000 drivers trying to repeat the historic victory of Englishman Peter Gethin in 1973, the only time a F5000 beat the lighter and more nimble F1 cars. At least two examples of the F5000 Chevron B24 used by Gethin on that day are expected to race at Taupo.