Set over two weekends one of the biggest events in our car scene is the NZ Festival of Motor Racing held at Hampton Downs racetrack in Auckland each year. Similar to the world famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK each year has a different theme. Ferrari, BMW, Bruce McLaren were all headlines in previous years and 2016 saw Porsche take its turn.
There’s a mixture of club racing, dual car sprints, demonstration laps and car displays. And essentially and excuse for a celebration of all things cars. Here in NZ the Porsche Club and Ferrari Club have a bit of a friendly rivalry. At the Ferrari event in 2014 they managed to get 140 Prancing Horses all in the one spot. So the challenge was laid down for the Porsche Club to beat that figure; given there are around 5,000 Porsches in NZ this figure seemed a very achievable target. The first weekend was set for the record attempt and an amazing 402 cars where all out on track at once!
I attended the second weekend which still saw an amazing array of P cars. The factory had sent out some ex race cars- a 1977 Porsche 935 and a 1998 WSC LMP1 prototype, along with a replica of the latest 919 Hybrid race car that local hero Brendon Hartley races with Mark Webber.
Some of the notable cars on display was the amazing 918 hybrid and a Carrera GT. Everything 911 was there- from the latest and greatest 991 GT3 RS (of which which one has already been sold to the UK for a profit on its sticker price), 991 GT3’s aswell as previous special cars such as the 964 RS and 993 RS. One of the standouts was a 1973 Carrera RS with green decals had been owned since new by the same family. The most recent one sold in NZ went for a rumoured $1.2 million.
Some famous NZ Porsches were there too. The 996 GT2 which holds the NZ record for the furthest time travelled in 24 hours- 2,942 kilometres was there. The ‘Lighting Direct’ Owen Evans car was on display and ex-Racing Ray Williams 993 GT2 Le Mans replicas was out battling on track with its near 800 horsepower.
The mid engined cars had a showing where no less than 4 of the 5 Cayman GT4’s sold in NZ where at the event- one of which was the pace car. Plenty of Boxsters and front engined Stuttgart cars were there too.
Hampton Downs is an interesting circuit. The track had just been purchased by Tony Quinn of Highlands Park and is receiving a $25 million upgrade including a 1.2 kilometre track extension. It has lots of undulating corners with blind crests, a seriously fast front straight and a tightening first corner which tends to catch people out and spit them into the sand trap. Luckily for me I was able to meet up with friends racing over the weekend and got some track time in the passenger seat of a 944. I’d owned one in the past and was fun to see what the old girl could still do- plenty of fun for a 30 year old platform. They lack the sheer straight line grunt compared to the modern cars but the 50/50 weight distribution means they’re fun through the corners.
One tip for any big racing weekend is to spend some time scouring the carparks for hit of other cars. I hit the jackpot- a McLaren P1! Now the third I’d seen. What makes this one so special is that the owner (who’s a Porsche racer himself) also owns a sister car to it- a McLaren F1. Chassis #018 has an LM engine and the two cars shared the same paint scheme and interior modifications.
For the non-Porschiphiles the carpark also had a Ferrari 360, Aston Martin Vantage, Dodge Viper GTS and another McLaren- a black 12C. On hand was also a Ferrari 458 Speciale (whose owner had won the lottery and decided to set up a Ferrari racing team!) and a Ferrari 250 GTO replica.
Capping off the weekend saw a visit to the local exotic dealerships. Again, these stops certainly didn’t disappoint. McLaren Auckland had a factory demo 570S on display. It was my first time seeing it in the metal and the impression I was left with was why would anyone buy a Porsche 991 Turbo S? Proportionally after looking smaller in the photos than the 650S it is just a big. The buttresses give the car an interestingly aggressive stance and lots of details for the eye to take in. The much hyped extra usably was confirmed with the McLaren talk of ‘ingress’ and ‘egress’ i.e. getting yourself in and out of the car really is an improvement with a much narrower carbon tub. There’s beautiful leather on all the touch surfaces although the colour combination of the demo wasn’t really to my taste.
The dealership had the evolution of the 12C on display too- a 12C Spider, 650S and a 675LT. I’d been hoping to see an LT when I’d heard 2 had been bought for NZ. This example was a silica white with black wheels which really is a beautiful spec with the splashes of orange. Running up around $770k in NZ it’s similar to new Aventador money here. The guys at McLaren Auckland are an amazing bunch that have plenty of time for enthusiasts like myself. After some chatting they showed me out into the workshop where no other than the second LT had just arrived and was being prepped for it’s owner. That machine is certainly on my dream car list!
Independent Prestige is just up the road from McLaren- NZ’s Aston Martin and Lamborghini dealership. There’s always a nice array of cars there so it’s easy to become complacent- DB9 Vanquishs, Rapides, Murcielagos and Huracans. It was again a lucky day out as there was the newly released Vantage GT12, with it’s outrageous rear wing and diffuser, arrived in the showroom. Alongside which was the holy grail of Aston Martins- a One77. I didn’t believe my eyes at first however the much wider track and front grill confirmed it pretty fast. It’s a mega car with a mega price tag. This one was again UK bound for a rumoured $3.5 million after the first owner had unfortunately passed away.
I was brought back down to earth pretty fast driving back to the airport- a Nissan Tiida rental car will do that to you! But after seeing that line up of cars over two days I needed to let my brain cool down and absorb the weekend. And with that I can’t wait for next years event.