The Ford Motor Company of New Zealand has announced their support of the fifth annual Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting, which celebrates the American marque this year.
Ford New Zealand has supported several Kiwi racing icons’ careers, including double World Touring Car Cup champion Paul Radisich in the storied Ford Mondeo and many Formula Atlantic drivers with the all-conquering Ford-Cosworth engine.
Garry Jackson, a figurehead for the Historic GP and a now-retired Ford Motor Company senior executive, says the deal is a fantastic boost to local historical racing.
“To say motorsport, like so many other sports, has been hit hard by COVID-19 is an understatement,” Jackson said.
“For Ford New Zealand to come on board and support what will probably be a once-only opportunity to celebrate Ford’s lengthy heritage and legendary status in New Zealand motorsport is a wonderful boost to historic racing and a recognition of its importance and contribution to motorsport generally.
“We are so incredibly lucky in this country that, while painful at the time, the COVID-19 lockdowns earlier this year meant we are now free to meet-up with old friends and share memories of the many iconic cars that will be on display, being demonstrated and being raced. It’s something that, it seems, other countries will have to wait for, possibly for quite a long time yet.”
The Historic Grand Prix has already been bolstered by the inclusion of several famous Kiwi Ford icons, such as a New Zealand-built Ford Falcon Rallye Sprint, a Ford-Cosworth DFV-powered McLaren M23 driven by Chris Amon, and two rare Zakspeed machines.
“After the Taupo Historic GP meeting got the green light, the momentum has been amazing and continues to build with support from competitors, owners of historic and legendary Fords, famous Ford drivers, Ford owner clubs, and Ford fans and enthusiasts,” added Jackson.
“I’m sure that that the line-up of Fords on track and display, and the famous legends who wrote this great history, will never again be achieved. It is a must-be-there event for all Ford fans and motorsport enthusiasts.’
The latest addition to the entry list is also sure to pull on the nostalgia strings.
The first-ever circuit-racing Mustang imported into New Zealand, the famous 1965-and-a-half Fleetwood Mustang will be on display for spectators over the weekend and may ever venture out for a few laps of its own.
Now maintained and raced by Kerikeri’s Sean McGaughan, the Mustang GT was initially driven by Ivan Segeden and Dennis Simmons and made a dazzling debut at the Gold Leaf Three Hour Challenge.
The two dominated proceedings until the rear brakes caught fire with 60-minutes remaining. Still, some quick thinking saw the duo finish the race, albeit with vice grips cutting off the brakes’ supply to the rear of the car.
The car was purchased from the Ford factory stateside. Inside was a K Code 289-cubic inch V8 engine, which punched out a little over 350bhp after modifications.
Segeden would contest the 1965-66 Saloon Car Championship with the Mustang, entering the car in class 2 for production-based vehicles.
Wins at Pukekohe, Renwick in Marlborough, Levin and Wigram paved the way for Segedin to clinch the class title.
Unfortunately, whilst powerful, the Mustang often fell victim of reliability dramas, and soon it needed a new engine block.
Auckland racer Red Dawson would purchase the Mustang and its stubborn engine woes for the 1967 season. However, Dawson’s debut foray with the Mustang coincided with the introduction of the Shelby Mustang’s driven by Paul Fahey and Frank Bryan.
Dawson’s season was met with mixed fate, and often he was unable to compete against Fahey and Bryan’s imposing might. However, he did keep his most impressive two races for last, including a victory at Timaru where he was made to start last after missing practice and qualifying.
The Mustang has since made the odd appearance at the circuit, and for the Historic GP will be on display next to a modern 2020 Mustang GT.
“Alongside the fantastic collection of iconic racing and rallying Fords that will be on display and being demonstrated, we plan to have our Ford Performance models there supporting the race meeting organisation,” Ford New Zealand Managing Director, Simon Rutherford.
“Particularly pleasing is being able to show-case our market success with the latest Mustang because it is the Mustang that probably first comes to mind when people talk about Ford’s ‘factory’ involvement in the NZ saloon car racing scene in the 1960s and 1970s.
“While the names of many of the iconic models that raced here over the last 60 years, Cortina, Falcon, Escort, Capri and Anglia, are no longer with us, it is the Mustang that rightfully still holds pride of place in our dealers’ showrooms.”
The event will run from January 22 – 24 and feature classes including the New Zealand Formula 5000 series, Historic Muscle and Saloon Cars, Formula Juniors and Sports Cars predating 1970