Kiwi racing legend celebrated
Driver who raced the most dangerous era of Formula 1, and lived, is being feted
To have back-to-back motorsport festivals held in your honour must be pretty cool.
That's what awaits former Kiwi Formula One driver Howden Ganley at Hampton Downs this weekend and next.
Now 73, Ganley was born and raised in Hamilton.
Sixty years ago, as a 13 year old visiting the Ardmore Circuit, Ganley saw his future.
"I really had no interest in motor racing until I was taken to Ardmore where I saw my first Grand Prix car," said Ganley.
"I was completely taken with them and it was at that point I knew that's what I wanted to do with my life - race them.
"Everyone told me I'd grow out of it and fortunately I didn't.
"In fact, on January 8, 2015, I went back to Ardmore and stood on the same corner where I watched my first race - exactly 60 years later to the day. I didn't think I'd be able to do that back then.
"I'm enormously flattered to have the festival about me this year. I was amazed when the organisers told me a year or so ago they would be doing me and that was wonderful," he said.
One of the showpieces of the festival will be Ganley's old V12-powered BRM P180 in which he competed in the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix.
Also on hand will be the unique Stanley 1977 BRM P207, as well as the 1974 BRM P201 which ran at the festival three years ago.
"Probably the most important one for me here is the BRM P180, which belongs to Robs Lamplough, who was in Singapore for a support race for Formula One and agreed to ship it here before it heads back to Britain.
"I did a lot of testing and it was a bit of a struggle to start with.
"At Monaco no one [teammates Peter Gethin and Jean-Pierre Beltoise] really wanted to drive it and I drew the short straw. It was a new car and there were a number of problems. It was a little troublesome and we each wanted the other to sort them out. By the end of the season, though, the team had sorted them all out," said Ganley.
Ganley is going to turn a few laps in the BRM along with his first "proper racecar" - a Lotus Eleven which has recently been restored.
He assures everyone they'll only be a few quiet, gentle laps. Yeah, right.
"I'd hate to do any damage to the BRM or blow it up. It'll be a lot of fun to do a soft few laps but you can get drawn in," said Ganley.
"You just can't help yourself and we should know better by now."
Racing those types of cars in the 1960s and 70s was dangerous.
Ganley is well aware of not just how gifted the drivers were back then, but just how dangerous the racing was.
"The mortality rate was so high and we all lost some great friends.
"Denny [Hulme], Chris [Amon] and I were all lucky with our careers.
"Bruce [McLaren] of course had a wonderful career but unfortunately his ended in tragedy.
"They were wonderful times though, and my schoolboy dreams came true and here I am all these years later still able to talk about it.
"The other great thing is being back in New Zealand at this wonderful track, being able to drive the car in which I won my first race at Ardmore in 1961."
Ganley made his mark on F1 circuit
Howden Ganley started racing in New Zealand but quickly realised that to get a leg up the international ladder he'd have to head to Europe.
On arriving in Britain, Ganley made contact with McLaren and was soon racing an F5000 car.
After finishing second to fellow McLaren M10B driver Peter Gethin in the 1970 European Formula 5000 championship, Ganley was offered a Formula One drive with the BRM team for 1971.
Ganley had a best finish of fifth and was named best newcomer.
He improved his top finish to fourth the following year.
Moving across to Frank Williams' new Iso-Marlboro team in 1973 was hard work in an uncompetitive car, and in 1974 he was racing with March, a union that didn't last long.
His F1 career came to a premature halt after a spectacular crash in the Japanese-built Maki in practice for the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
Formula 5000 to the fore
Organisers are confident fans will see more than 50 Formula 5000 cars at the Howden Ganley Formula 5000 Festival.
They're hoping for examples of the V8, V10 and V12 powered machines covering all years of the formula's life and most if not all of the manufacturers who built cars for the series, which ran in the US, Europe and Australasia from 1968-82.
The champion of the first Formula 5000 World Series will be crowned after the last race of the second weekend. At least one full grid of Formula 5000s will race, and that could mean as many as 35 of the earthshaking single-seaters roaring around Hampton Downs almost five seconds a lap quicker than the best "V8 taxi".