- Category: Local
- Published on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 15:38
- Written by Blair Bartels
This year’s Gulf New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing is honouring a true legend of New Zealand Motorsport and New Zealand’s only Formula One world champion, Denny Hulme.
Awarded the ‘Driver to Europe’ Scholarship in 1960, Hulme had to endure six long seasons of funding his own Formula Junior and Formula 2 campaigns before the big break came with the number two drive at Brabham, backing up none other than team owner Jack Brabham, in 1966, although he had driven in a couple of races for the team in 1965.
Only a year later, the Kiwi made the most of his opportunity and became New Zealand’s first, and to date only, Formula 1 World Champion after a 1967 campaign that included victories on the daunting streets of Monaco and the downright dangerous Nurburgring Nordschliefe, also known as ‘The Green Hell’.
For 1968, despite his successes with Brabham the previous season, Hulme jumped ship to the up-and-coming McLaren team, founded by countryman and friend Bruce McLaren.This was not an altogether unexpected move, with Hulme having already driven with the team in America as part of the Can-Am team.
Hulme ran with the team until 1972 in Can-Am (having won two championships and finished runner-up a further three times) and in Formula One until 1974 until seemingly retiring from the sport.
But not long after, touring car racing attracted ‘The Bear’ back into the hot-seat. Originally it was just as a once or twice-a-year deal, before stepping back into full-time racing in 1982 in the highly competitive Group A touring car series with Ray Smith in New Zealand, driving a Holden Commodore, and Frank Gardner’s JPS team in Australia piloting a BMW 635Csi.
That then snowballed into a European ride with Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR outfit driving a Rover Vitesse in 1986, before moving back to Holden and Australia with Larry Perkins a year later.
Three years later he moved back to BMW and Gardner, this time in the B&H M3. Just to add to all that, Hulme also became involved in the early days ofTruck Racing in New Zealand that eventually saw him return to Europe to contest the EuropeanTruck Racing championship.
Tragically, whilst competing in the 1992 Bathurst 1000 driving Gardner’s M3, Hulme suffered a massive heart attack and despite being rushed to hospital, was pronounced dead on arrival.
This year’s New Zealand’s Festival of Motor Racing, the fourth, is set to honour arguably New Zealand’s most successful and versatile driver. In the previous three occasions, the festival has also honoured Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and BMW Motorsport.
This year sees a stunning line-up of racing across both weekends (January 18-20 and 25-27), with a huge line-up of cars from all around the world set to take to New Zealand’s most modern race track, Hampton Downs.
The majority of classes are ones that Hulme has at some point in time participated in, including Can-Am (which will be joined by more modern two-litre sports cars), F5000 (although Hulme was never an F5000 driver, the class features several ex-F1 cars including the ex- Hulme McLaren M23),Tasman cars, Formula Junior/Formula 3 (with a total of 44 entries) and Group A and historic touring cars).
On top of these, there will also be races for Historic Muscle Cars & Pre-1978 GTs, Historic Formula Ford and Pre-1978 Invited Sports, Sports Racing and GT cars.
The opening weekend will also see action from the Pre-1985 Invited Open Saloons and GTs plus the BMW Open Class, while the second weekend sees the BMW E30 series and ClassicTrial.
Amongst the cars that will be present at the meeting are a large number of cars driven by Hulme throughout his illustrious career. The cars quite literally span his whole career, starting with the MG TF that a young Hulme made his competition debut in as a barefooted youngster in New Zealand.
At the other end of the scale is the very same BMW M3 that Hulme suffered a heart attack – and lost his life at the wheel of – during the 1992 Bathurst 1000.
As well as those two incredibly significant cars is the McLaren M8A Can-Am car used by Hulme to win the 1968 championship, a McLaren M23 that Hulme drove in his penultimate season of Formula 1, a 1960 Cooper Formula Junior car bought back to New Zealand by Hulme, and the 1962 Brabham BT4 Climax used by Hulme in the 1964 Tasman Series.
There is also the 1965 Brabham BT16 Formula 2 car, the Volkswagen Golf GTi Hulme shared with Stirling Moss in the B&H 500 at Pukekohe, and the Group A Commodore that re-introduced Hulme to full-time driving in Touring cars back in 1982.
As is that's not enough, there's two BMW’s that Hulme drove for the JPS team, one a 635Csi (which will be driven by JPS team-mate and touring car legend Jim Richards) and the other a 325i, a BMW M3 he shared with Brett Riley, the Rover Vitesse he drove for Tom Walkinshaw and the ScaniaTruck he used to jointly win the New Zealand Truck Racing championship in 1989/90.
Other vehicles of Hulme's that will be on display over the two weekends include his legendary Can-Am powered boat and the Land Rover he would tow it with, a selection of family trail bikes, the Mini 850 Hulme used as a London runabout and the MkII Ford Zodiac that was the tow car Hulme used whilst kick-starting his career in Europe.
Such is the success of the event over the past few years, that the country’s only dedicated TV programme, CRC Motorsport, has become involved, promoting the festival throughout the tail end of 2012 and will show a feature length programme on the festival later in 2013.
Other off-track entertainment will include a BBQ on each of the two Saturday nights, with festival organisers currently putting together a panel of people for a Q&A session on Hulme’s career, with the first weekend focusing on Formula One and the second focusing on his Can-Am career.