The Archibalds Historic Touring Car Series heads to Taupo this weekend and if the response from race-goers there is anything like that at the 4 Guys Autobarn Legends of Bathurst meeting at the Hampton Downs last weekend the future of the country’s latest retro racing category is assured.
“The mix of cars as well as some of the star drivers from the various eras certainly seemed to capture the imagination of the crowd,” says Historic Touring Cars (NZ) Association Chairman Murray Sinclair. There were people two and three deep outside some of the pit garages. It was fantastic.”
The Association was set up in 2015 to promote the purchase and active use of Touring Cars from the various categories which were run through the 1980s and 1990s, and with over 50 active car-owning members it was decided last year that there is enough ‘critical mass’ now to sustain a new, standalone series here.
Key car and driver combinations at Taupo this weekend include Kiwi great Paul Radisich who will be reunited with the Mark Petch Seals-liveried BMW E30 M3 now owned by Peter Sturgeon he – and a number of other top Kiwi drivers – drove in period, and Australian ace Charlie O’Brien, driving the Murray Sinclair-owned ex Eric van de Poele Nissan Primera Super Tourer.
O’Brien dominated the second 2017/18 series round at Hampton Downs last weekend, qualifying quickest and winning all three races, despite serious competition from the ZakSpeed DTM-spec E30 BMW M3 of Auckland ace Graeme Cameron.
Also in the field this weekend will be the ex-Emmanuelle Pirro/Paul Morris DTM/ATCC E30 M3 beautifully rebuilt and driven by Auckland owner Conrad Timms, the ex Kevin Waldock Ford Sierra Cosworth in the hands of long-time local owner, Brett Stevens from Motueka, and the 1994 Ford Mondeo raced in period by Kiwi BTCC race winner and two-time World Touring Car Cup winner Paul Radisich, and now owned and driven by Invercargill’s Scott O’Donnell.
O’Donnell’s Christchurch-based uncle, Lindsay O’Donnell is also a keen classic racer, and will be on the grid in his ex-Rickard Rydell/Kelvin Burt 1997 BTCC Volvo S40. Fellow Cantabrians Phil Mauger and Austen McKinley, will also be in the mix, Mauger in his late model ex Team Dynamics/Matt Neal (BTCC) Nissan Primera, McKinley the ex Ed Lamont NZ 2 Litre Touring Car Series-spec Toyota Corona.
Making his series debut this weekend, meanwhile, will be Nigel Arkell in a Honda Accord Super Tourer. Fellow Aucklander Kane Walmsley is also expected to return to the class grid (after missing last weekend’s meeting at Hampton Downs) in his ex BTCC Toyota Corolla Super Tourer.
With interest in buying, where necessary restoring, then race preparing these well-loved and remembered racing cars at an all-time high, Murrray Sinclair says that the category is a timely addition to the programme at the Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting.
“We have been very specific in outlining the categories so that we can use period FIA regulations to ensure authenticity across the various categories, i.e. Groups 2 and 5, Group A and Super Touring. Group C was peculiar to Australia but we included it so we had some commonality with the Australian Heritage Touring Group.”
“Our strong focus is on maintaining and racing these historically significant racing cars without attempting to embellish the originals or encourage the production of replicas. And, as a semi-formal Association we hope to be able to bring a field of Historic Touring Cars to events which mirror our philosophy and provide event organisers with a “made to measure” category they can promote.”
The Archibalds Historic Touring Car Series cars will be on track from Friday with qualifying and a six-lap race on Saturday then two more six lap races on Sunday.