Kiwi motorsport icon to be immortalised with new documentary
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New project to document Kenny Smith's illustrious career
Plans to produce a feature-length documentary based on one of New Zealand's iconic race drivers were confirmed earlier this week.
The film will look at Kenny Smith — one of the most popular and prolific names across Kiwi motorsport's eventful history — and is titled Kenny Smith: 60 Years at the Wheel.
Smith's racing history encompasses a comprehensive open-wheel career headlined by three New Zealand Grand Prix victories (1976, 1990, and 2004). He has also competed and won in Formula Junior, Formula Ford, Formula Pacific, Formula Mondial, the Toyota Racing Series, and in Formula 5000 where he still drives (and often wins) today.
Over that time, particularly in the earlier years, Smith found himself battling on home soil against some of the world's most famed racers — including the likes of Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss. But, Smith's racing career off the track is almost as integral to his story. Throughout his long racing history he's played a mentoring role for many of the country's most celebrated racers — from touring-car aces Greg Murphy and Shane van Gisbergen, to Europe-based Porsche pilot Brendon Hartley, to Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, and to the next generation of drivers including teenager Liam Lawson.
Smith after winning the 1988 Formula Pacific race at Baypark. Photo / Herald File
And with 2017 marking his 60th year of racing in New Zealand, filmmaker Adam Jones felt the time was right to kick off a concept he's wanted to produce for a number of years.
"I thought this was a documentary that has to be made," Jones told Driven.
"I did a little film for the Formula Libre and Pacific class that they put together, and I said to Kenny — 'I'd like to do something a bit bigger than this with you.'
"Doing something in film is quite important because of the fact that the story of Ken Smith is the story of New Zealand motorsport. It goes right through the wave of this car racing thing that's happened in New Zealand. That is really the most important factor.
"He's not the kind of guy that puts himself forward and says 'hey look at me, this is what I can do'. But as soon as you ask him the questions, he answers them forthright. There's no bullshit."
The documentary will plot the path of what looks to be one of Smith's busiest seasons of motorsport in recent years; balancing out Smith's current-day racing with interviews with a host of people who have worked alongside or raced with him.
For Jones, Smith was a racer he watched at local race tracks as a child. It helped inspire Jones' passion for motorsport — as a filmmaker and a race driver.
"As a kid I always went to motor racing. I didn't come from a family that was into motor racing, I was just into it," says Jones.
"I remember seeing Ken at Wigram in the early 90s — he would've been racing a Formula Pacific at the time. But he brought out an old F1 car and did some demo laps. It was pretty cool."
Although Smith is highly respected in the Kiwi racing sphere, he was never able to make it into the competitive world of Formula 1 like Bruce McLaren, Howden Ganley, and other Kiwis did in the 60s and 70s.
However, this could well change later this year, with Smith having been invited to compete at the iconic Goodwood Revival in England, potentially behind the wheel of a historic Formula 1 machine.
There are also plans for him to race at next year's New Zealand Grand Prix.
Jones has set up a Kickstarter fund to try to help counter some of the costs of the documentary's production, as well as to help Smith make it to Goodwood this year. Within just two days, 20 per cent of the $10,000 goal had been reached.
"I think there's that Kiwi thinking that 'Ken's always been here, so he'll always be here.' He does get a lot of respect, but he's very Kiwi in that he doesn't sing his own praises.
"Something that's always been there and been solid and reliable often gets overlooked."
Click here to learn more about Kenny Smith: 60 Years at the Wheel, as well if you want to donate towards the film's production.