This is our Grand Prix. It’s an actual, official Grand Prix, recognised by the FIA too. In fact, little old New Zealand has one of only two current national Grand Prix events that are not part of the Formula One World Championship, the other being the Macau Grand Prix. And you can largely thank its heritage for that, almost, unique accolade.
Geographically, it’s been run at a variety of venues since the first race – Ohakea, Ardmore, Pukekohe, Ruapuna, Wigram, Teretonga and Manfeild, where it resides today, of course. And it’s list of winners is not only a ‘Who’s Who’ of Kiwi motorsport, it is also fully reflective of golden and more challenging eras of our motorsport history and a fascinating technical record of the genres of cars that have competed for this outstanding piece of silverware.
Kiwis have always excelled in their home event. The first winner, John McMillan, was a Kiwi and there have been no fewer than 30 New Zealand wins over the years with Nick Cassidy, Craig Baird and Ken Smith topping the Kiwi table with three wins each followed by Daniel Gaunt in the Toyota FT40 era, Simon Wills in Formula Holden and legend Chris Amon in the glorious works V6 Ferrari on two victories apiece. Baird and Cassidy are also notable for the ‘three in a row’ wins they achieved, and indeed nobody else in the history of the New Zealand Grand Prix achieved the same degree of ‘domination’, though Australian legend Jack Brabham came closest with three wins over four years.
When Smith takes the start one again this weekend, it is worth remembering that although the iconic Kiwi racer is still active racing his legendary F5000 Lola, his first win in the Grand Prix dates back more than 40 years to 1976. In a F5000 Lola of course. He won it again in 1990 in a Formula Pacific Swift Cosworth and demonstrating his complete versatility and staying power, took the trophy once more back in 2004 during a period when Formula Ford cars competed for the Grand Prix.
The type of cars that have competed for the GP trophy is also a point of interest and is a reflection very much of what was going on in the rest of the world at the time outside of Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3 – which tended to be mainly European-based formulae but were by no means exclusively the fastest single seaters in the world.
In the early years of the Grand Prix up until the early seventies – which ironically has many parallels with the current era of the Grand Prix – many Northern hemisphere racers came to race on these shores. During that era the Grand Prix was a very important race on the international calendar, most notably when it was a part of the Tasman Series. In this era, several contemporary Formula One drivers would compete in the race, often with great success. Six Formula One World Drivers’ Champions have won the New Zealand Grand Prix and looking at some of the winners, none need an introduction. Our own Bruce McLaren, Amon, Brabham, Prince Bira, Stirling Moss, Reg Parnell, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill. Enough said really. New Zealand’s only F1 World Champion, Denny Hulme, however, never won his home Grand Prix.
From the early seventies, outside of F1 the major single seater formulae was F5000 with series in America, Europe, and Australasia and it was a halcyon period for the Grand Prix with the big bangers bringing massive crowds, decent fields and thunderous races won by the heroes of the day. Our cousins across the ditch arguably mastered the art of these cars better than we did and Australians Frank Matich, Neil Allen, Frank Gardner, John McCormack and Warwick Brown all added their names to the trophy. It was only Smith who added a Kiwi name to the trophy during the 5000 era.
The big bangers were followed by another formulae that was hugely popular outside of the mainstream – Formula Pacific (or Atlantic as it was known in the Northern Hemisphere). These were mighty little cars, largely based on Formula 2 machines of the time but running smaller four cylinder engines. The cars very much reflected F1 and F2 thinking at the time, with the eighties and nineties cars having full ground effect long after it had been outlawed in F1, for example. Another golden era it was too, when drivers who raced in F1 like eventual F1 world champ Keijo ‘Keke’ Rosberg, Brazilian Roberto Moreno and Italian Teo Fabi all joined the list of winners.
Formula Holden – effectively Formula 3000 cars re-engineered with Holden motors – competed for the Grand Prix between 1994 and 2000 and the list of winners in that period included Greg Murphy and the last winner of that era, Andy Booth. Murphy, of course, went on to gain legendary status in V8 Supercars. Another Supercar racer, current DJR Penske racer Fabian Coulthard was a notable name in the Formula Ford era.
This era was ended in time for the 2006 Grand Prix which heralded the start of the Toyota Racing Series. Since then, the Grand Prix has been fought out in identical Toyota-powered Tatuus chassis, with the earlier FT40 putting in a long stint as the category car between 2006 and 2014 before the current FT50 chassis, which employs many modern building materials, techniques and aerodynamics, was introduced. Notables here have included Williams F1 racer Canadian Lance Stroll, McLaren protégé Lando Norris and Force India F1 Junior Jehan Daruvala – the current Grand Prix champion.
Who will be next to become part of this history of this most Kiwi of motor races?
1950 John McMillan (NZ) Jackson Special Ford Ohakea Circuit
1951 Not held
1953 not held
1954 Stan Jones (Aus) Maybach Special Ardmore Circuit
1955 Prince B. Bira (Tha) Maserati 250F
1956 Stirling Moss (UK) Maserati 250F
1957 Reg Parnell (UK) Ferrari 555/860
1958 Jack Brabham (Aus) Cooper T43 Climax
1959 Stirling Moss (UK) Cooper T45 Climax
1960 Jack Brabham (Aus) Cooper T51 Climax
1961 Jack Brabham (Aus) Cooper T53 Climax
1962 Stirling Moss (UK) Lotus 21 Climax
1963 John Surtees (UK) Lola Mk4 Climax Pukekohe Park Raceway
1964 Bruce McLaren (NZ) Cooper T70 Climax
1965 Graham Hill (UK) Brabham BT11A Climax
1966 Graham Hill (UK) BRM P261
1967 Jackie Stewart (UK) BRM P261
1968 Chris Amon (NZ) Ferrari 246T Ferrari V6
1969 Chris Amon (NZ) Ferrari 246T Ferrari V6
1970 Frank Matich (Aus) McLaren M10A Chevrolet
1971 Neil Allen (Aus) McLaren M10B Chevrolet
1972 Frank Gardner (Aus) Lola T300 Chevrolet
1973 John McCormack (Aus) Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden
1974 John McCormack (Aus) Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden Wigram Airfield Circuit
1975 Warwick Brown (Aus) Lola T332 Chevrolet Pukekohe Park Raceway
1976 Ken Smith (NZ) Lola T332 Chevrolet
1977 Keke Rosberg (Fin) Chevron B34
1978 Keke Rosberg (Fin) Chevron B34
1979 Teo Fabi (Ita) March 79B
1980 Steve Millen (NZ) Ralt RT1
1981 David McMillan(NZ) Ralt RT1
1982 Roberto Moreno (Bra) Ralt RT4 Ford
1983 David Oxton (NZ) Ralt RT4 Ford
1984 Davy Jones (US) Ralt RT4 Ford
1985 Ross Cheever (US) Ralt RT4 Ford
1986 Ross Cheever (US) Ralt RT4 Ford
1987 Davy Jones (US) Ralt RT4 Ford
1988 Paul Radisich (NZ) Ralt RT4 Ford
1989 Dean Hall (US) Swift Cosworth
1990 Ken Smith (NZ) Swift Cosworth
1991 Craig Baird (NZ) Swift Toyota
1992 Craig Baird (NZ) Reynard 92H Manfeild Autocourse
1993 Craig Baird (NZ) Reynard 92H
1994 Greg Murphy (NZ) Reynard 90D Holden
1995 Brady Kennett (NZ) Reynard 91D Holden
1996 Not held
1997 Not held
1998 Simon Wills (NZ) Reynard 94D Holden Ruapuna Park
1999 Simon Wills (NZ) Reynard 94D Holden
2000 Andy Booth (NZ) Reynard 94D Holden Pukekohe Park Raceway
2001 not held
2002 Fabian Coulthard (NZ) Van Diemen RF94 Ford Teretonga Park
2003 Jonny Reid (NZ) Van Diemen RF94 Ford
2004 Ken Smith (NZ) Van Diemen Stealth Ford
2005 Simon Gamble (NZ) Spectrum 010 Ford
2006 Hamad Al Fardan (Bah) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2007 Daniel Gaunt (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2008 Andy Knight (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota Manfeild Autocourse
2009 Daniel Gaunt (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2010 Earl Bamber (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2011 Mitch Evans (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2012 Nick Cassidy (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2013 Nick Cassidy (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2014 Nick Cassidy (NZ) Tatuus TT104ZZ Toyota
2015 Lance Stroll (Can) Tatuus FT-50 Toyota
2016 Lando Norris (UK) Tatuus FT-50 Toyota
2017 Jehan Daruvala (Ind) Tatuus FT-50 Toyota