Ken Smith has been confirmed to compete in this weekend’s Formula Ford Festival in Christchurch.
The three-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner will be driving a Van Diemen Stealth in the festival, which celebrates 50 years of Formula Ford racing in the country and the 40th anniversary of the South Island Formula Ford Club.
Smith has been an advocate for the role Formula Ford has on the next generation of racing drivers.
He sees the class as an important stepping stone for young Kiwis looking to compete overseas.
“Formula Ford is the best class the world could ever offer young drivers coming through the ranks,” Smith said.
“All the top F1 drivers, all the good Supercars drivers have come through the category. If a young kid can master Formula Ford, then they can drive anything in the world.
“Back in my day, we drove front-engined single-seaters such as a Lola in Formula Junior. They were a similar style, but once Formula Ford came along, it offered a young driver everything they need to learn in a category.
“Formula Ford teaches them to drive a car which is relatively ‘loose’ because of minimal grip. Close wheel to wheel racing teaches them to have respect for their fellow competitors.
“We have got some fantastic kids coming through the class and where they learn the ability to understand a car setup, exactly what is right or wrong with the car and how to work around any problems without the reliance on engineers and data to solve things.”
Smith is often a regular competitor in the national Formula Ford championship, which has its final round over the weekend.
Nearly 70 entries have been recorded for the festival, including a healthy crop of historic and post-2000 cars.
The weekend’s final race will see the fastest 26 cars take part in an 18-lap feature race.
The winner of the race will be crowned the overall champion of the festival and will head to the UK to race in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
“It’s going to be a fantastic day as we have a lot to celebrate. A big thanks to Nigel Barclay for stepping up and organising everything,” Smith added.
The festival will be held on May 1 at Mike Pero Motorsport Park with free entry for all spectators.