5 Feb 2016

Festival of speed to visit tranquil farm

2:43 pm on 5 February 2016

Roaring engines and screeching tyres will drown out the chirp of cicadas this weekend at motor racing champion Rod Millen's picturesque and usually tranquil Coromandel farm.

Rod Millen in 1906 Durracq.

Rod Millen in a 1906 Darracq vehicle Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

More than 15,000 spectators and 130 drivers are expected at the fourth Leadfoot Festival, taking place near the beach-side village of Hahei.

Classic cars, modern racing cars, vintage and off-road cars and motorbikes will scream up a hill-climb course for the event.

Mr Millen, an internationally acclaimed rally driver and many-time winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb event in Colorado, designed the 1.6 kilometre course - which acts as his driveway for the other 363 days of the year.

It takes Mr Millen a little over 48 seconds to fly up the driveway.

"It's tight and twisty… (it has) lots of switchbacks.

"It's technical, it's difficult but it's also fun for the spectators to get up close and see as well."

He described the event as a festival of driving.

"It's unique. It's the only one in New Zealand and is modelled on The Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

"Like theirs...we want to select significantly important race vehicles and drivers that have got a great reputation.... to show their skills to our guests on the farm."

Rod Millen on his Leadfoot Ranch

Rod Millen on his Leadfoot Ranch Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

One of the drivers will be four-time IndyCar champion, New Zealander Scott Dixon.

It will be the first time Dixon's been seen behind the wheel of a racing car in New Zealand since he left to compete overseas 15 years ago.

Mr Millen said it was a coup to secure Dixon's participation and the festival had been timed to work in with his racing schedule.

Dixon was under contract with sponsors so wouldn't race officially, but Millen said he expected Dixon would wring everything he could out of the 110-year-old racing car he would drive in an exhibition run.

The 1906 Durracq competed in the French Grand Prix the year it was built, and was the first car to take a chequered flag.

It was able to reach speeds of 100 miles per hour on the open road, which Mr Millen said was somewhat slower than Dixon was accustomed to.

"You know, he's in the 240 mile an hour range so this will be like driving a pedal car for him."

Other well-known names competing include touring car driver Paul Radisich, V8 super car driver Greg Murphy, yachtsman Grant Dalton, Thames-Coromandel mayor Glenn Leach and motorcycle road racing champion and businessman Mike Pero.

Mr Millen will also be on the track, trying to fend off those closing in on his record time.