Still in the fast lane at 74
AGE IS NO OBJECT FOR PASSIONATE RACE TRACK VETERANS
Most of the attention leading into today’s Mahindra North Island Endurance Series event will be devoted to the big-budget and high-power machinery that lines the front of the field. But spare a thought for the experienced and enthusiastic campaigners that make up most of the midfield.
Among them are Noel Anderson and the Honda Civic Type R that he will share with Trevor Strong. Anderson ranks as the oldest driver on the grid at 74 (Strong is just a few years behind, at 65). But age didn’t stop the pair from finishing an impressive third in the 2000cc class at the New Zealand Endurance Championship this year, beating plenty of younger drivers in the field.
“They don’t like getting beaten,” laughed Anderson, while talking to Driven. “I’m 74 and most people, if I told them, wouldn’t believe I’m 74. I was born in 1942, so you can work it out yourself.”
Plenty in their 70s could only dream of competing in a sport like car racing, but Anderson presses on with his craft.
Emigrating from the UK to New Zealand in 1973, he has raced in numerous different club-level championships.
Among the cars he’s raced was one he built, concocted from spare parts and grafted together on opposite sides of the globe.
“It was a little sports car. I built the rolling chassis with the engine in it in the UK. It was drawn on the workshop floor, and I sat around all the bits I had — bits and pieces from other cars — and then built a space-frame chassis.
“I basically made my own gearbox, after cutting the back off a Lotus gearbox and put a new back end on it, with an extra bearing in the main shaft, and all sorts of stuff like that.
“But then it got to the stage that I hadn’t finished it when we decided to come back to New Zealand, having been away for a number of years.”
Sadly, Anderson no longer owns the car, having sold it to finance a business. The car has since traversed New Zealand’s geography and race tracks.
“I raced it a couple of times at Manfeild and did some hill-climbing in it, and then I sold it. It went through a few owners, and then it disappeared. Ten years later someone said they knew where it was; Auckland. I talked at length with the guy, and found that it was my chassis, but most of the good bits had gone.
“[The current owner] ended up with it in Napier when he rang me. Neat guy. I was going to Napier a couple of weeks later so I took the original drawings and gave them to him. He had basically rebuilt it.
“It ended up with a Hillman Imp-type motor in it, but basically the rolling chassis was my car. He loves it and has had a lot of fun with it. Now it’s more of a museum piece because he’s bought something newer and doesn’t use it much now.”
While the modern FD2-generation Type R Anderson uses in the endurance series is a far cry from his home-built sports car, he says he’s having as much fun behind the wheel as ever. Aiding his cause has been the relatively open and regulation-free endurance series format.
He says others have too many rules. “The slightest little thing; ‘oh that’s not in the rules of the racing’ — and it’s stupid stuff, well, stupid to me. They haven’t got weight limits and all the other silly things make it more expensive and less fun.
“I think with the car we’ve got now we will be competitive. But, we go there to have fun. We’re not interested in trying to be the fastest. We’ll just do what we do to the best of our ability.
“We have a new car this year and it goes all right. We raced it in the final at Hampton Downs in March, but it had only been finished for a couple of weeks and we hadn’t dynoed it, so we just ran it straight out of the box. We’ve got some serious horsepower now.
“I do 90 per cent of the stuff myself, and we’ve got some good guys in town — guys that do welding and that sort of thing. They’re all local, I don’t have to go out of town for anything. Most of the stuff we do virtually is in house. “Trevor owns the workshop, so I just go to his place, shut the door, and get on with what I’ve got to do.”
Anderson’s passion for sport runs in the family — his son Gary Anderson was a cycling medallist in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
“He’s grown up around me playing with race cars basically. He thinks it’s all right — he does his thing and I do my thing. He’s been to have a look occasionally.
“He probably thinks we’re nuts, but it’s what we do.”