Cup runneth over with big names
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After touring the South Island, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series has ventured north to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park for the third round of the 2017 championship this weekend.
Since the series was founded in 2004, it has morphed from a breeding ground purely for young New Zealand talent to a training facility for some of Europe, Asia, and America’s brightest open-wheel stars.
It’s fitting, therefore, that some of New Zealand’s most coveted trophies from decades past have been integrated into the category’s fabric. One of the most prestigious is the New Zealand Motor Cup, which will be awarded to tomorrow afternoon’s Hampton Downs feature race winner.
The cup comes with a history that spans almost 100 years and a host of different formats, championships, and drivers from around the world.
The first winner of the cup was Howard Nattrass in 1921. Nattrass, behind the wheel of a stripped down V8-powered Cadillac, was awarded the trophy after winning a 40km sprint along Muriwai beach at an average speed of 141km/h.
As technology evolved, so did New Zealand’s motorsport scene — and the Motor Cup went from being decided on sand to on airfields and horse tracks.
After spending 26 years quietly on the sidelines, the trophy returned to service as the top prize for the winner of the 1954 New Zealand Grand Prix.
The 1954 event was the first of its kind, allowing international competitors to make the trek down and compare their craft to the best Kiwis. It was held at Ardmore airfield — a 200-lap torture test won by Stan Jones of Australia with a Maybach Special.
Estonian racer Sten Pentus holds aloft the New Zealand Motor Cup after winning it in 2014.
This helped set the tone for the New Zealand Motor Cup, which has since been awarded to some of the most famed names in international motorsport.
Formula 1 stars Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, and Jackie Stewart added their names to the list through New Zealand’s open-wheel peak; while Chris Amon and later on Craig Baird, Paul Radisich, and Greg Murphy helped fly the Kiwi flag.
Since 2006 it’s been one of the jewels in the Toyota Racing Series crown — young drivers such as Shane van Gisbergen and Mitch Evans earning the right to have their names engraved on the trophy next to some of the biggest names in circuit racing.
Kiwis Brendon Leitch, Taylor Cockerton, and Marcus Armstrong will aim to add their names to the history tomorrow, though 17 other international drivers are aiming to do the same.