Tackling the trip to Leadfoot in a Mini Countryman PHEV
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New Zealand offers a plethora of incredible roads to explore once you manage to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
And though the majority of these empty expanses exist in the South Island, there are still many in the north — including the Thames to Coromandel road.
To drive to Rod Millen’s iconic Leadfoot Festival this year, we took this road in Mini’s Countryman Cooper SE plug-in hybrid.
As a brand, Mini has been associated with tight-turning hatches since its conception in 1959.
Though the Countryman SUV might look like a far cry from the mini-Minis that made the brand famous, many of its definitive characteristics are still present.
After the beachfront Thames to Coromandel stretch is completed, mostly under electric power, the climb starts across the peninsula.
Despite it being the first day of a long weekend, the roads are surprisingly clear of campervans and holidaymakers, meaning that this route through to Whitianga is as entertaining to drive as the first section of our journey.
It was only once we arrive at our accommodation and look at our plans for the next couple of days that we realise getting from Whitianga to Hahei is a bit more than just a hop, skip and a jump.
But that isn’t the biggest issue; where to plug the Mini in to charge topped that list. We ended up finding an unused powerpoint above the rubbish disposal area at the motel. It wasn’t the most elegant looking or smelling spot to park the new Mini, but it did the job nicely.
Saturday morning saw the first trek out to Leadfoot Ranch, and we joined a stream of old Australian and American-built classics on the road towards Hahei.
It was our first time attending the iconic event and we were blown away by the sheer scale of the event on Rod Millen’s farm.
Upon entry, our Mini was considered impressive enough to be ushered towards the show and shine area of the event’s car park. Even though it’s still part of the regular car park, the majority of quasi-performance cars could pass for a Quay St meet in Auckland on a Friday night.
The Leadfoot Festival spectacle should be on every car/truck/motorbike enthusiast’s bucket list.
From the incredible range of vehicles on display to watching race cars old and new at full noise on Millen’s driveway, is electrifying.
Our favourites are Philip Macey’s 1972 Ford Falcon, Rod Millen’s iconic Celica, and Alister McRae’s 600kW Subaru WRX, the fastest of the event.