New Zealand open-wheeler champions and international stars in past decades David Oxton and Jim Palmer join New Zealand’s most recent motor racing world champion Brendon Hartley as new faces and stories celebrated on the MotorSport New Zealand Wall of Fame.
The three Wall of Fame inductees were revealed during the annual MotorSport New Zealand awards dinner held at Te Papa in Wellington on Saturday 28 May, where New Zealand’s governing body of four-wheeled motor sports acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of competitors, officials, volunteers and media over the past year.
“New Zealand is going through another phenomenal period of international success with young stars like Brendon Hartley and Hayden Paddon, says outgoing MotorSport New Zealand president Shayne Harris.
“Having achieved incredible success at home, David Oxton in the 1970s and Jim Palmer in ‘60s, this pair of incredible drivers represented New Zealand internationally with distinction and we’re delighted to recognise their achievements by inducting them into the Motorsport Wall of Fame.
David Oxton’s success in open-wheelers saw the Aucklander win eight New Zealand championships between 1967 and 1984, including the prestigious Gold Star title five times – three in a row in Formula 5000 Beggs. Winning New Zealand’s first Formula Ford title in 1972 season earned Oxton entry into the Formula Ford World Cup at Brands Hatch at the end of 1972 where he put the oldest car in the field on pole position. In 1973 with one mechanic and a meagre budget, Oxton contested Formula 5000 events in the UK and Europe, fighting hard for solid results in a competitive year. In 1977 he again ventured offshore with a one-off car, the Tui, designed by New Zealander Allan McCall. Oxton and the Tui often finished just behind future Formula 1 stars Gilles Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg in the hard fought North American Formula Atlantic Championship. Following some time in Group A saloons, Oxton focused on his family and business while mentoring many up-and-coming drivers.
Jim Palmer, from Hamilton, totally dominated open wheeler racing in New Zealand through the 1960s to the extent that he won the coveted Gold Star title four times. Palmer was also first resident New Zealander home in the New Zealand Grand Prix for five years in succession from 1964, and on four occasions at the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy race. He also raced at Bathurst for Australian entrants in their Gold Star as a result of his reputation as a fast but safe pair of hands – it was in a Scuderia Veloce Brabham that he set a new lap record at Bathurst. He was back at Bathurst in 1968 in a Holden Monaro as part of the factory team and shared the runner-up car. He was successful in saloons in New Zealand during occasional long distance events when he stepped away from open-wheelers. He then, in his quiet way, slipped out of motor racing and devoted his time to his car sales yard and his family. Despite his modesty and natural shyness, his time at the top of New Zealand single-seater racing produced such a string of results that may never be bettered. He’d had opportunities to race in Europe and his performances in the Tasman left no one in any doubt that he had the ability to race in Formula 1.
World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley was born in Palmerston North to a well-respected motorsport family and began his motor racing career in karts at age six, following in the tyre tracks of his older brother Nelson. In 2002, aged 12, he contested his first full championship, Formula First, finishing seventh against many seasoned veterans. A major win at the NZ Formula Ford Festival earned Hartley a drive in the Formula Ford championship. He then competed in the first season of the Toyota Racing Series, and won the first ever TRS race at Timaru in 2005, aged 15. With the drive and talent to make a career from racing, and just 16 years of age, he made the move to Europe where he raced in a two-litre Formula Renault in the German and European Championships. In 2007 he won the World Series by Renault, a win that would become a defining time for him in a foreign country. Hartley was selected for the Red Bull talent pool and worked hard. In the 2008 Formula 3 Grand Prix in Macau – having started 20th, he finished third and set the fastest lap of the race – a phone call from Red Bull asked if he could stand in for the injured Mark Webber at a Formula 1 test. He made his debut as reserve and test driver at the Spanish Grand Prix on 8 May 2009, becoming the first New Zealander to achieve F1 driver status since Mike Thackwell in 1984.
Hartley had a F1 contract up to and including 2013 – first with Red Bull Racing, and then for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team. In 2012 he started his second career as a long distance racer, driving for Murphy Prototypes in the 2013 European Le Mans Series, and competing in iconic races like the Daytona 24-Hour, Bathurst 12-Hour and Le Mans. In 2014 Hartley secured a Porsche factory contract to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid in the FIA
World Endurance Championship. In 2015 at the age of 25, he made New Zealand motorsport history when he was crowned a world champion alongside Porsche teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard when the trio won the FIA World Endurance Championship. There is much more to come from one of New Zealand’s most talented circuit racers.
The Motorsport Wall of Fame was established in 1994 and is located in Motorsport House as a permanent reminder of the achievements of past and present members who, through their endeavours, have been instrumental in bringing motorsport achievements to the world at large.
The MotorSport New Zealand awards evening also saw trophies presented to 2015-16 race, rally, hillclimb and clubsport champions from around the country, as well as an array of certificates and awards acknowledging the contributions of volunteers, officials and media. See www.motorsport.org.nz for a full list of this year’s MotorSport New Zealand awards.