We do like a touch of that trans-Tasman rivalry at Cars2NZ, so while you’re dreaming up your next reason to import a classic Aussie car or motorhome into New Zealand, we thought we’d pit the countries’ best five motorsport legends against each other to see how they compare.
Immortalised as the creator of the World’s Fastest Indian, this Invercargill farmer’s son bought his first motorbike in 1915 and his first Indian in 1920 – a bike he rode until his death in 1978 and which he fine-tuned and tinkered with until it was capable of hitting more than 200mph. He won countless races and set dozens of speed records throughout New Zealand, but he’s best known for his world record attempts at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats during the 1960s – during 11 attempts he broke three records one of which still stands.
Born to the owners of a Shell service station in the Auckland suburb of Remuera, Bruce McLaren overcame a crippling childhood illness and having to construct his own Formula Two Cooper when he first arrived in the UK to become the youngest winner of the American Grand Prix at 22 and a top-10 Formula One racer throughout the 1960s. By the end of the 1960s, his own brand of McLaren racing cars were dominating F1 and Can Am championships thanks to his own exploits and those of fellow Kiwi drivers Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, and the name has since become synonymous with F1 success as the team has claimed 182 race victories, eight constructors’ titles and 12 drivers’ titles.
“The Bear” won the 1967 Formula One world drivers’ championship in 1967 just two years after his debut and went on to win eight grand prix and 33 podium finishes in his 112 races until his retirement from F1 in 1974. But it’s his versatility and workaholic racing history which marks Denny Hulme out as one of the true greats – turning his hand to Can Am racing most notably as a member of the McLaren team which won five straight titles and earning him two drivers’ championships. As well as endurance racing, Denny Hulme returned to Australian touring cars and died of a heart attack while racing at Bathurst in 1992 aged 56.
It’s tough to separate Greg Murphy and Possum Bourne when you’re looking at successful Kiwi motorsport personalities in Australasia over the past few decades, but we’ve opted for Possum because of his mix of engineering smarts (he started life as an apprentice mechanic), his passion and commitment both to rallying and his fans, and the fact that at the time of his death in 2003 aged just 47 he was still enjoying incredible success behind the wheel. His accolades include a record seven straight Australian rally championships, eight top-Kiwi finishes at the World Rally Championship of New Zealand and three Asia-Pacific Championships.
At only 13, Scott Dixon had to be granted special dispensation to race in New Zealand in 1993 but he quickly rose to fame after winning the Formula First title in his first season and then finishing third and then first in his first two seasons of the Australian Formula Holden series. But it’s been his success in the US, where he’s racked up serious dollars and no small number of wins in IndyCar, including four championships in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015 and the coveted Indianapolis 500 from pole in 2008. His 38 US victories in open wheel cars has him fifth on the all-time winner’s list.
Sir Jack Brabham
Jack Brabham set the standard for racing drivers who not only drove world class, but also created world class teams. The three-time Formula One world champion changed the sport when he took the title in 1966 in his own car and enjoyed 15 years in a sport at a time when racers’ life expectancy was considerably shorter. Brabham’s success as an engineer, racer and team boss, and legendary 1959 championship title secured only after he’d pushed his own car 500m to the finish line in Florida after he ran out of petrol ensured his own legacy and forged a path for all Aussie motor racers outside their own country.
Nobody comes close to Brocky in terms of motorsport deities over The Ditch. Nine Bathurst wins will do that for a man – but his nine Sandown 500 touring car victories, three Aussie Touring Car Championships and single Bathurst 24-hour title make him a genuine star. When he died during a race in 2006 aged 61 the public outpouring of grief was huge – something no doubt with his huge personal profile, his anti drink-driving campaigns and his work with disadvantaged youngsters through his Peter Brock Foundation.
The first driver to win a Formula One world championships with Williams competed in 117 grand prix between 1975 and 1986 (although his last four years were an unsuccessful comeback following his retirement with Williams in 1981), winning 12 races and finishing on the podium 24 times. He also found success on the other side of the Atlantic winning the Can Am title in 1978. The last Aussie F1 diver to win the Aussie Grand Prix duelled with Peter Brock in the 1982 GT Championship and enjoyed top-10 success at Le Mans.
During his 11 years as an F1 driver, Webber’s ability to score points with first Minardi and then a lacklustre Jaguar – with whom he frequently reached the front two rows of the grid – eventually earnt him a spell with first Williams and then Red Bull where he enjoyed the bulk of his success including nine wins and 13 pole positions. He’s now enjoying podium success in a Porche 919 hybrid as part of the World Endurance Championship.
In a country which worships its V8s over its fixed wheel racing, Craig Lowndes five Bathurst 1000 titles and record of being the first driver in Supercar history to reach 100 wins sets him on something of a pedestal. There will always be those who claim that Mark Skaife was a better driver, and of course, nobody can touch Brocky, but Lowndes has proven untouchable over recent years.
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