One of the most fearsome vehicles competing at the Leadfoot Festival next month is Rod Millen’s Toyota Tundra truck.
The host’s black-and-yellow V8-powered Tundra has become something of a symbol for the festival of motorsport at Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula at Waitangi weekend.
Among the drivers taking part in this year’s festival are IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, Top Gear USA host and drifting star Tanner Faust, international rally star Alastair McRae, and Millen’s sons Rhys and Ryan, who will be driving the Tundra.
Polar opposites in Rod Millen's Leadfoot barn. Photograph / Matthew Hansen.
The Tundra came about because Toyota decided in the late 1990s to enter the full-sized ute market in the US, against vehicles like the Ford F150, which even today is among the best-selling models of its kind.
Toyota engaged Millen Works Racing to design, build and campaign a competitive vehicle in the US Championship Off Road Racing series.
“They wanted to launch the Tundra in the US with some performance credentials,” said Rod Millen.
Despite a weight penalty for running an overhead cam engine, he finished second in the 2000 CORR series and won six of 10 events in the series in the following year.
The team suffered a 22 per cent penalty on weight and engine displacement, but succeeded with what Millen describes as a relatively light and nimble vehicle.
Ryan Millen will also be driving a 1983 Mazda RX 7 during the Leadfoot Festival.
Rod Millen and one of his Mazda RX-7 racers. Picture / Matthew Hansen.
The Mazda was built for the US Rally Championship, with the main focus being to take on the dominant Audi Quattro factory team in 1985, when it won the manufacturers’ title.
Tanner Foust is one of international motorsport’s best-known drivers, partly as a result of his role as one of the presenters on the US version of Top Gear.
He is a three-time US rally champion (2010-2012), and has won four X Games gold medals and two Formula Drift championships.
Tanner Foust drifts his Passat.Picture / Supplied.
A leading driver in rallycross since its introducedin the US in 2010, he is the only American driver to win a round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Foust has also been a stunt driver in major movies such as The Bourne Legacy, Bourne Ultimatum, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, Dukes of Hazzard, Red Dawn and Iron Man 2.
He will drive a unique, rear-wheel-drive converted Volkswagen Passat, which produces some 671 nitrous-boosted kilowatts (900hp) from a V8 engine.
The car, owned by Tanner Foust Racing, has a performance swan-mount rear wing, and its distinctive supercar exhaust note comes from a specially designed eight-into-one sequential collector.
The Leadfoot Festival takes place at Rod and Shelly Millen’s Leadfoot Ranch at Hahei on February 6-7. As well as to two full days of motorsport, the weekend includes evening activities such as a concert by The Warratahs.