Vaughn Gittin Jr and Josh Coppins confirmed for Leadfoot 2018
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It's only September, yet preparations for next year's Leadfoot Festival are already in full swing via an array of new structures and spectator spots currently under construction.
Part of the Hahei hill-climb's allure comes from the forever changing infrastructure that surrounds the event's always long list of invitees from around the world. The continually evolving roll call of drivers and cars also plays a strong part, too.
After announcing that four-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon would be taking part next year in a new Honda Civic Type R, festival organisers Rod and Shelly Millen have confirmed two more world-renowned motorsport names: three-time World Drift Series champion Vaughn Gittin Jr and former World No. 2 motocross star Josh Coppins.
Gittin Jr is one of drifting's most recognisable international stars, and is the second top-line American drifter to take on Leadfoot in recent times after Tanner Foust attended in 2016 and earlier this year.
"I talked to [Gittin Jr] maybe two or three years ago, and each year since he's said it was on his bucket list," Rod Millen told Driven.
The Maryland drift pilot currently campaigns a pair of wild three-wheeling RTR Ford Mustangs in America's Formula D series with teammate Chelsea Denofa. Underlining how serious he is about Leadfoot, Gittin Jr will roll out a newly built example of Ford's popular pony car.
"I'm really thrilled! He's got a great presence around the world, of course including the US, as a three-time world champion. So, we're really excited to have him join us," Rod said.
"I think it'll be different. He's been well accepted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so I'm sure that will carry over to Leadfoot."
Josh Coppins will show his skills at next year's festival. Picture / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
At the other end of the machinery scale is Josh Coppins and his 2018 Yamaha YZ450. Coppins is one of New Zealand's leading lights on the international motocross scene, and founder of Josh Coppins Racing -- the team that campaigns WMX star Courtney Duncan.
Millen describes Coppins as one of New Zealand's most underrated sporting talents, and hopes that Leadfoot's challenging off-road course will underline the Yamaha pilot's ample skill set.
"Once again we're going to try and set up the property so that he'll be able to utilise the off-road part of the course, and I think we'll get to see some of his skills. That's something I'm really looking forward to, having followed his career over the last decade," said Rod.
The two hefty signings help bolster the already well-supported drifting and off-road segments. Red Bull's "Mad Mike" Whiddett, Rattla Motorsport's Shane Allen, and D1NZ champions Cole Armstrong, Darren Kelly, and "Fanga Dan" Woolhouse lead the drifting contingent, while the likes of Race to the Sky legend Ian Ffitch and back-to-back Polaris NZ 1000 champ Ben Thomasen join Coppins in the off-road ranks.
Combined with the bevy of rally, classic and touring cars that make up the remainder of the preliminary grid (more announcements are still to come), next year's Leadfoot Festival is shaping up to be the most exciting yet.
"One of the highlights for me is people like Scott Dixon coming back," Rod said.
"Watching him around people ... he's very generous with his time. He's a wonderful ambassador for motorsport and a wonderful ambassador for New Zealand.
"To have people like that on the property, enjoying their couple of days at the festival and being appreciated. That's what makes the Leadfoot Festival."
For more information about the 2018 Leadfoot Festival and to secure your tickets, visit leadfootfestival.com