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Checking out the variety at the Hampton Downs Icebreaker

14 September, 2015


September’s an awkward month. It manages to be both deeply ingrained in the dreaded fruitlessness of the mid-year slog, but is still somehow close enough to December 25 for you to start stressing about what you’re getting mum for Christmas. But September is where you find the annual Historic Racing Classes (HRC) Icebreaker meeting at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park — an event that’s popular enough to distract anyone from the weight of a life buckled down with the month’s first-world problems. As an added bonus, it also acts as a yearly reminder that the upcoming circuit motorsport season is just around the corner.

Icebreaker is an event that’s firmly based in grass-roots motorsport, with the 2015 edition supported by 250 race cars of all shapes and sizes. The Historic Muscle Cars, Castrol BMW Race Series, and the Trofeo Series for Alfa Romeos were among the classes represented. Entries ranged from cars scraped together on a shoestring, to cars that would fit in at any endurance event in Australasia; big thumping V8s, to light Japanese coupés, to open wheelers.

It’s also a very relaxing place to be. There are no engineers sprinting up and down pit lane, or promo girls trying to sell things to the innocent — it’s all quite peaceful, apart from the noises echoing from the track of course. Everyone’s open, friendly, and chatty. Not to say that you can’t find friendliness at a tier-one meeting of course, but it’s just not quite the same.

Sadly I didn’t hang around for long, but I did hover for long enough to catch a couple of races — including the final BMW open race, which still held a huge amount of variety despite being relegated to cars of the Bavarian persuasion. At the front was Andrew Nugent’s BMW M3 E92, coming close to resembling a DTM racer, but with a far nastier sounding bark emanating from its exhausts. Behind him duelled the pair of Gull-sponsored 3 Series campaigned by Andre and Warwick Mortimer, as well as Robert Berggren’s well-presented wide-body M3 GTR replica.

While the racing at the front of the field was pretty clear-cut, the mid-order dicing was anything but. Justin Daly’s E30 330i had a great scrap with the E46 of Treva Smith, while a similarly entertaining battle between the E30 Fina Group A replica of Ash Razmi and Dave Lawrence’s 3 Series Compact — a platform traditionally unloved by motor racing circles — didn’t get resolved until the final lap, with the Compact eventually taking the position.

It feels weird to say, but the racing and the competition take a back seat at an event like Icebreaker — at least for me. It’s the kind of event best enjoyed by roaming parc fermé and pit lane, soaking in the sounds and the people. Bring on October!

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.