Millen wins, but not the one we expected, at Hahei's 2016 Leadfoot Festival
In a surprise result, Rhys Millen has defeated his father Rod to claim overall honours at the 2016 Leadfoot Festival after a dramatic day of competition at the Hahei ranch.
Despite Rhys' speed, it was Rod Millen and former World Rally Championship star Alistair McRae who set the tone earlier in the day by setting the fastest times of qualifying — both drivers equaling each other with a pair of 0:48.96 lap times, three-tenths of a second adrift from the current lap record held by Rod.
The notably warmer conditions appeared to be helping everyone, as times across the board began to tumble.
One of the few cars to come unstuck was the Tamaki ITM BMW 2002 TI Alpina, driven by Grant Clegg. Photo / Matthew Hansen
As the times tumbled the overall top-ten order scrambled, eventually resulting in the majority of the favourites making it into the final, with several surprises thrown in — Paul Radisich and his father's twin turbo Aegis Oils Toyota Supra one of them, having managed to crack the top ten after recently returning to the track after a lengthy hiatus from the sport.
But despite their morning heroics, neither Rod nor McRae could equal or improve upon their early times at the final hurdle — Rod in particular setting a disappointing 0:51.32 after making a mistake while rattling through his gearbox.
Their mistakes left the door open for Rhys Millen, who had landed a 0:49.62 earlier in the session in what the driver called a "fantastic run."
“We saved the slicker times for the final run,” he said.
"My speeds got quicker [...] I did get beaten by a Millen, but it was the wrong one," added McRae, as the pair celebrated with third-place getter Sloan Cox.
Curt Whittaker lights up a special set of purple-smoke tyres during his last run. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Rod Millen's time slotted the five-time Pikes Peak International champion into fourth overall, with World Time Attack competitor Andy Duffin and his tri-rotor, aero-laden Mazda RX-7 rounding out the top five.
In the pre-1960s category, Robert McNair and his 1931 Riley 9 Special came home in first, with a scorching 1:04.10. While SS2000 and GTRNZ regular Rick Bone in his Auckland Engineering Supplies backed Datsun 1200 Coupe won the pre-1975 class.
The high speeds of the overall competitors weren't the only cars to receive applause, as the strong contingent of drifters — spearheaded by Americas Tanner Foust and his Rockstar Volkswagen Passat — had the crowds on their feet. The group, which also included Rattla Motorsport's Curt Whittaker and Shane Allen, and former D1NZ champions Gaz Whiter and 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse, all putting on an encore performance at the end of the day.
“I've always wanted to come out to New Zealand for years ... I'm wanting to get a Rallycross car and come back,” said Foust, after appearing on the 'best in show' awards podium next to Whittaker, and IndyCar driver Scott Dixon following his efforts in the entertaining Darracq.
Top ten times / results
1. Rhys Millen: 0:49.31 (Hyundai Veloster GRC) 2. Alistair McRae: 0:49.62 (Subaru Impreza WRC) 3. Sloan Cox: 0:50.87 (Mitsubishi Evo VIII Hill Climb Special) 4. Rod Millen: 0:51.32 (Pikes Peak Toyota Celica) 5. Andy Duffin 0:51.96 (Mazda RX-7) 6. Ben Hunt: 0:52.35 (Subaru Impreza WRX STi Coupe) 7. Ian Ffitch 0:53.19 (BRM 100 Super Quad) 8. Paul Radisich 0:54.98 (Toyota Supra twin turbo) 9. David Holder 0:55.04 (Mitsubishi Evo VIII) DNS. Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda 2 4WD)