Leadfoot Festival crowns new champion, and he's not a Millen
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Scottish rally legend Alister McRae wins title with sub-50 second time
For the first time in the five-year history of the Leadfoot Festival, a Millen’s name wasn’t on the winner’s trophy after Alister McRae took out the title in a time of 49.43 seconds.
Driving Possom Bourne’s former 1998 Subaru WRX STi, Scottish rally legend McRae won the top 10 shoot out up the now legendary 1.6km (1 mile) driveway yesterday.
The Leadfoot Festival was established to recognise Kiwi rally ace and international motorsport legend Rod Millen’s 60th birthday but the success of it now sees international drivers keen to take part and crowds increasing at Rod and his wife Shelly Campbell Millen’s 150-hectare farm at Hahei.
Now around 130 competitors take part in the event with the aim to record the fastest time on Sunday up the drive that begins at the flat area at the start of the farm, up though a pine forest that includes all of Rod’s favourite rally corners, and to a finish line at the top of the property.
An astounding array of vehicles took part this year, from the first Le Mans car, a 1906 Durracq, driven by Rod at the event this year, to a 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport driven by Top Gear USA host and global rallycross champ, Tanner Foust plus Grant Dalton on his 2016 FS450 Husqarna.
Al Unser Jr. Photo / David Pearce
Other renowned international drivers included Indy 500 champ Al Unser Junior in a 1915 Stutz, Paul Dallenbach in his 2006 Dallenbach Special, David Donner in his 2005 Donner/Dykstra Pikes Peak Special and McRae’s father, Jimmy.
Former Bathurst winner Greg Murphy was using the event to test his 2016 AP4 Holden Barina rally car for the first time, making it to the top 10 shoot out.
While an official crowd number isn’t yet available, Shelley said they had doubled last year’s 14,000 pre-sold ticket sales before the two-day event began.
For the first three years of the event, Rod won the title of Leadfoot champion in his Pikes Peak Toyota Celica, with son Rhys Millen winning last year with McRae finishing second and local driver, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox in his 2004 Hill Climb Special Evo 8 in 2016.
But with the USA-based Celica still needing repairs and Rhys busy with global rallycross, the title was always under treat.
McRae had set a cracking pace on Saturday with a 49.99 practice time.
But on Sunday in his first official race up the drive, McRae told Driven exclusively that he panicked as his time of 50.61.
Alister McRae in the Vantage Motorsport Subaru WRX. Photo / David Pearce
His team had changed the settings of the Subaru to try to get “some low down power”, he told Driven, but instead he went off the pace.
Asked if he thought his 49.99 time on Saturday had concerned the other competitors, McRae smiled but disagreed.
“All the drivers knew what they needed to do, and they just got faster and faster,” McRae told Driven.
He was determined to return next year, along with Foust who is keen to bring his rally VW Polo to the event to push for a top three spot.
Talented young driver Cox looks also set to return next year after taking second place on Sunday with a 50.83second time, and Dean McCarroll, in his 2008 Juno SSE, was a contender for the top spot with his 50.54 time in his first official run up the hill but settled for third (51.60).
McRae was the only driver across the weekend to go below 50 seconds.
Rod Millen did find success yesterday, winning the pre-1975 title in his 1975 Mazda RX3 in 52.75 seconds.
The Leadfoot Festival will return next year, to be held over February 3-4, 2018.
Top 10 Shootout times
1. Alister McRae – 1998 Vantage Motorsport Subaru WRX Impreza – 49.43secs
2. Sloan Cox – 2004 Hill Climb Special Evo 8 – 50.83secs
3. Dean McCarroll – 2008 Juno SSE – 51.60secs
4. Ian Ffitch – 2002 BRM 1000 Super Quad – 51.72secs
5. Andrew Hawkeswood – 2016 Mazda 2 AP4 – 52.22secs
6. Greg Murphy – 2016 AP4 Holden Barina – 52.25secs
7. Carl Ruiterman – 2009 Subaru WRX STi – 52.55secs
8. Paul Dallenbach – 2006 Dallenbach Special – 52.62secs
9. David Donner – 2005 Donner/Dykstra Pikes Peak Special – 54.80secs
10. Leigh Hopper – 2004 Subaru STi C Spec RA – 75.21secs
1960 – 1975 category
1. Rod Millen - 1975 Mazda RX3 - 52.75secs
2. Clark Proctor – 1973 March 73A F5000 - 52.93secs
3. Paul McCarthy – 1974 Ford Escort RS1600 – 54.01secs
Pre 1960 category
1. Robert McNair – 1931 Riley Nine Special – 63.33secs
2. Ray Ferner – 1932 Ralph Watson BSA FW32 – 63.35secs
3. Steve Day – 1959 Briggs Mercury V8 Special – 65.53sec
Best in Show
1. Al Unser Junior – 1915 Stutz
2. ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse – 2016 VF Holden Commodore
3. Ernie Nagamatsu – 1959 Old Yeller 11 Buick Special