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True classics feature at Highlands Festival of Speed


A Tom Walkinshaw Racing-built Group A Rover Vitesse which won the French Touring Car Championship in 1986 is just one of the many unique classic cars racing at this week’s Highlands Festival of Speed.

The V8 Rover Vitesse is now in the hands of Christchurch’s Allan Scott and is raced regularly in the Historic Touring Car category. Scott and his Rover make their debut at Highlands Motorsport Park during the Festival of Speed taking place over the weekend of 30 and 31 January.

Scott was the manager of Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s (TWR) engine division from 1979 till 1994 in Oxford England and worked with this exact car in the European Touring Car Championship.

“Having purchased the car in the UK in 2013, I have fully restored it,” says Scott, who is the author of two books for motorsport history fans about TWR’s Jaguar and Rover racing campaigns, both of which are on sale at the Highlands national motorsport museum.

“My Rover has an extensive history, and among the highlights are winning the prestigious Silverstone Tourist Trophy (TT) in 1986 in the hands of New Zealand’s only Formula 1 champion Denny Hulme and UK race driver Jeff Allam.

“Tony Quinn has made a fantastic track at Highlands. I have many friends as well as my sister living close by so have an added aspect to our visit to Central Otago for this weekend’s race meeting.”

Scott is competing in the modern classics category and will race a diverse array of vehicles from the 1970s and ‘80s including a Datsun 240Z, a Nissan 280Z, an Alfa Romeo Alfasud and a TWR-build VL Holden.

Highlands’ general manager Mike Sentch says: “We’re also delighted to welcome Canadian competitor Tony Carruthers who has bought his Swift DB2 from Vancouver Island to race in New Zealand. We were saddened to hear that Tony’s car was damaged by fire when racing at our sister circuit Hampton Downs the other week, but are very pleased to hear that Tony has been lent a car to race at Highlands.”

Tony Carruthers says: “Sadly the fire damage is too extensive to race my Swift again this year. However, a good friend, Graeme Cameron, is loaning me his Swift DB3 Formula Ford to do the Highlands and Skope races in the South Island. I cannot believe the great support that I have received from everyone at Hampton Downs.”

Among the older, vintage cars racing is the very famous Lycoming Special. Now owned, restored and raced by Cromwell’s Ralph Smith, this revolutionary race car was built by Auckland engineer, Ralph Watson. Powered by an air-cooled 5244cc aircraft engine running through a Studebaker gearbox to a Ford V8 differential, the Lycoming’s engine is upside down and back to front. Since the painstaking restoration from two trailer loads of parts, Smith has competed in classic and historic meetings across New Zealand, as well as Australia, the US and mostly recently, the famed Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK. This will be the second time Smith has raced at Highlands.

Headlining this year’s Highlands Festival of Speed are the hugely popular ENZED Central Muscle Cars with support from the Pre 65 category as well as Highlands’ own modern and nostalgic classics, and historic saloons and single-seater classes.

As always, Highlands’ events feature great kids’ activities, fantastic food and refreshment stalls and free grid and pitlane walks. Highlands also lays on free buses to and from Cromwell as well as the Highlands bus which takes spectators around the circuit to the different viewing areas and the popular Jurassic safari park and adventure playground. The Festival of Speed vehicle show stars treasured cars, motorcycles, boats and caravans from across the eras.

Tickets for the Highlands Festival of Speed are now on sale from or from the Highlands’ museum office. Pre-event ticket prices are $45 per adult for Saturday or Sunday, or $70 for a weekend pass. Children under 16 years of age are free accompanied by a paying adult.

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