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PROFILE

KEN SMITH IMAGE R.COLBAN

For New Zealander Ken Smith, his racing career spans more decades than many people have working lives. Born in 1942 Ken is able to boast an unbroken 48 years behind the wheel. Having raced against the best drivers New Zealand has produced, Ken is also well known on the international podium for wins such as the 1982 Malaysian Grand Prix and 3 times winner of the Penang Granp Prix His start in the sport was at a time when names such as Bruce McLaren , Chris Amon and Denny Hulme were also emerging. Well known by econic names like Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss, Smith has the honoured distinction of being one of the last few standing among his fellow aged peers.

While its more than just a way of life for racer Ken Smith, his attitude has inspired more than just his own career. Regarded as a foster father to many talented drivers in New Zealand, Kem Smith was instrumental in helping Scott Dixon into a caree abroad where scott now races professionally in the Indy car racing league. A long campaigner of the current premiere open-wheel class, Ken Smith has yetto win the Formular Ford Championship. Instead, he has had to play bridesmaid (runner up) a total of four times . “Its an incredibly hard championship to win and after all these years you’d think id get a turn!” said Ken recently.

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NEW ZEALAND RACER

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When you look at Smith’s CV you notice that he’s won just about everything there is to win. Hill climb titles mesh with three New Zealand, three Penang and one Malaysian Grand Prix wins. He’s a five times NZ Goldstar champion, he’s a member of the Motorsport New Zealand Hall of Fame, his name adorns Mansfield’s main straight and he was awarded an MBE in 1988 for services to motorsport. Smith won his first championship as a 16 year old, when he won the New Zealand Hill Climb. Back then Hill Climbing was popular; he first raced in a Ford 8 Special, which he described as ‘a bit of an old pig’ followed by Bruce McLaren’s Austin Ulster. Bruce McLaren’s old Austin Ulster was a 100 mile per hour motor car, he did hill climbing with that until he got to the stage where we needed something better, so ended up with a Cooper Sports Car, which came out of England, which he ran with a Holden engine. Smith raced during what has been called the golden age of New Zealand racing. Drivers like McLaren, Amon and Hulme were all making their mark and many of the Formula One drivers were racing in New Zealand and Australia during the off-season. They were great times, they were all there, Jochen Rindt, Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, we had the best Formula One drivers come out to New Zealand, and Australia, in the Tasman days, said Smith. It was great to race in that era with those guys, they didn’t treat you like crap, they’d talk to you. If you were in the shit they’d help out with information. I remember Jim Clark buggered a fuel bag in his Lotus before a Grand Prix meeting and they forgot to bring a kit to fix it. I had a Lotus 41 with a bag so I gave Colin Chapman the kit and said he’d send me one back. He sent me this massive big thing. NZR OCTOBER 2013


NEW ZEALAND RACER

Smith puts the success of New Zealand drivers back then to the popularity of motorsport over just about any other sport. Yeah there were a lot of good drivers in New Zealand back then in that era, a lot of them started prettyyoung, Chris Amon was only 17 when he got going, said Smith. I think people in New Zealand were car nuts. Motorsport was something, it wasn’t so much football and golf around, so we got big crowds there. We were surrounded by it.Smith enjoyed a lot of Grand Prix success in Malaysia, winning the Malaysian and the Penang Grands Prix, but it was his home wins that still put a shiver down his spine. I worked with Scott (Dixon) a lot, we virtually got him over to Australia to get going, said Smith. We got some shareholders to help funding to get a deal going. Scott had a lot of ability, he was a natural, he was a thousand per cent. I took him to America, I met up with Vern Schuppan and Stefan Johansson to ask them about a test, which we got . Within seven laps he broke the Sebring track record. There were 12 teams there and they were all saying shit, who is this guy? So if not for Ken Smith where would Scott Dixon Be Now, Find out in next months issue of NZRACER.

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NEW ZEALAND RACER

Dunedin driver John Whelan, 22, was lucky to walk away after a spectacular crash at Manfield on Saturday. The Dunedin V8 driver’s brakes failed at the end of the front straight, sending him off track and towards the wall at about 160kmh. He walked away unscathed, but his car was written off. Motorsport photographer who captured the images said Whelan tried to turn and change down a gear but it was too late as his Ford Falcon slammed into the wall during testing on Saturday. “I got some height after the hit,” Whelan said. “If it wasn’t for the tyres I’m sure i would have rolled it.” Whelan was driving in the NZV8s category at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting. IMAGE R.COLBAN

NEXT WEEK WE TALK TO ANGUS FOGG

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