Homegrown motorsport icon Kenny Smith has been confirmed as a starter for the 2021 New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on January 22–24. It will be the 66th running of the event, and Smith’s 50th attempt — an incredible feat.
“It is exciting. I don’t do things for numbers but people relate to that number,” Smith said. “It is 63 years this season in January without missing a season and we have done most GPs. I just love motor racing.”
Smith is a three-time winner of the Grand Prix, meeting the chequered flag first in 1976, 1990, and 2004. This puts the 79-year-old in incredible company as the equal winningest driver in the title’s history alongside fellow three-time winners Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Craig Baird, and Nick Cassidy.
“The best one was the first one I won in 1976 in a Formula 5000 – that was a very special one for me. The earlier days was the privilege of running in the Grand Prix with Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham and all those overseas drivers plus [Bruce] McLaren, [Denny] Hulme, [Chris] Amon – they were a thrill to be running with those guys and they were the best in the world in those days,” Smith said.
“The reason I’m doing it is that I just love driving. I have no expectations but we could hassle one or two of them. I am 79 now and I haven’t lost the edge or the speed. If we ran Formula 5000 cars for the Grand Prix and you dragged those other kids in, I am sure I could win the race.
“These current cars – that is what they live for – they are stiff, they are rigid and there are hard to drive – you have to change your whole driving style but I am happy to do that to compete and to be in the Grand Prix.”
Smith’s impacts on local open-wheel racing span numerous generations. Along with being a front-running driver, he’s also aided the careers of drivers like Scott Dixon, Brendon Hartley, and reigning TRS champion Liam Lawson.
The event doubles as the opening round of the 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Smith is the first name formally confirmed for a seat in the three-round series, however VelocityNews understands that more than 10 drivers are locked into the category.