by Chris Tobin
The Waimate 50 Festival of Motorsport is primed and ready for Saturday having secured international rally star Hayden Paddon.
All that is needed is good weather.
“If the weather is good we could have over 10,000 people,” organiser Rob Aikman said, “but if it’s bad that could be down to 5000.”
The town’s total population is about 8000.
He said securing Paddon and his Hyundai rally car for the weekend was a “coup”.
“We’ve been negotiating for some time now and we’re very delighted to get an international star.
“It’s the first time we’ve had someone at his level.”
Paddon won the final round of the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship in Raglan in his Hyundai i20 AP4+ car at the weekend and gave Hyundai NZ its first NZRC manufacturers’ championship title.
“He’ll be doing demonstration runs on the Saturday and Sunday and we might encourage him to do a timed run.”
Aikman said they had received just over 100 full entries, with starters coming from throughout the country.
“It’s the last street-race circuit in the country. It’s got a lot of heritage and is a completely different form of motorsport.
“We’ve got the required safety requirements but the people can get close and alongside the drivers.”
The Waimate 50 dates back to 1959 when the winner was a young Bruce McLaren, future Formula One and Can-Am star and founder of McLaren Racing, who won the then 50-lap race around town streets driving a T45 Cooper Climax.
The event continued but stopped for about 10 years before itwas revived in 2009 as a street sprint over a shortened course.
The event starts tomorrow with entrants visiting schools around the district, followed by a hill sprint starting at 4pm.
On Saturday, street racing starts at 11am and continues throughout the day.
Invitation heat races which hark back to the original Waimate 50 will be held, as well as drifting demonstrations and a Street Attack, a one-lap timed event.
In the evening, a North versus South drifting competition starts at 6pm.
Racing continues on Sunday from 8am to 5pm in which the top 10 in the individual races will have a run over two laps to decide who will take the title of Waimate 50 champion.
Top entries include Daniel “Fanga Dan”, Woolhouse, of Whangarei, a professional drifting driver and national champion, and Andy Duffin of Tauranga, a World Time Attack competitor.
Also turning out will be former Timaru man Nigel Barclay who spent a decade managing the Paul Morris V8 Supercar team in Australia.
Aikman said a small group had organised the event, but on the weekend it swelled to 100-150 with the help of volunteers.