Waimate event to honour McLaren

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by Chris Tobin

As part of its 60th anniversary this year, the Waimate 50 Motorsport Festival is including a special tribute to the inaugural winner, motorsport legend Bruce McLaren.

“We’re stoked that he won his first major event here in Waimate when it was a New Zealand road racing championship,” event spokesman Rob Aikman said.

“I’ve been in touch with the McLaren Trust about planning tributes to him. Hopefully, we’ll get some representative from the family.”

In 1958, the year before the inaugural Waimate 50, McLaren became the first recipient of the Driver to Europe award, which enabled promising Kiwis to race against the world’s best.

The same year he won the Waimate 50, McLaren, aged 22, became the then youngest Formula One race winner, winning the United States Grand Prix.

A year later, he finished second to Jack Brabham of Australia for the world Formula One driving championship.

“We’re pushing the racing side a lot more; there’ll be a lot more race classes and we’re doing historical things with classic and muscle cars.”

McLaren died in 1970 when his Can-Am car crashed at Goodwood Circuit in England.

Mr Aikman said this year’s Waimate 50 would include several additions to the programme to make it even more appealing.

Big names Hayden Paddon and the ever young Kenny Smith would be in town to race.

“‘It will be quite different to what it has been.

“We’re pushing the racing side a lot more; there’ll be a lot more race classes and we’re doing historical things with classic and muscle cars.”

Smith will be taking a trip down memory lane. He raced at the Waimate 50 for the first time in 1966.

Paddon turned out last year and proved a big drawcard.

“He saw what it was about here last year and he’s put his hand up to return. He’s bringing his team and will compete in the street attack.”

Burn-up . . . International rally star Hayden Paddon burns some rubber in last year’s Street Attack at the Waimate 50. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

Mr Aikman said the organisers had been “overwhelmed” by the response they had received with many cars and drivers coming from the North Island for the first time.

“This is probably where we’ll be going in the future; we’ve got another 60 teams involved this year.”

He said there had been a huge demand for accommodation.

“Waimate doesn’t have the capacity so most stay in Timaru or Oamaru.

“We’ve been fortunate the town has got together and we’ve managed to get 23 homes that we didn’t have before.”

He estimated that the Waimate 50 brought in $1million to Waimate and surrounding areas.

“It is quite a valued event and it’s not just over one day; there are four to five days leading up to it as well.

“A lot of people stay for a week.”

The 2019 Waimate 50 Motorsport Festival will be held over Labour Weekend, October 26 and 27.