‘In terms of its population, New Zealand’s contribution to the top echelons of motorsport far outweighs that of any other country.’
Stirling Moss, British F1 driver, 1970
Eight New Zealanders have raced in Formula One since its inception in 1950 – the last been Mike Thackwell in 1984. Between them they have taken the chequered flag on 12 occasions and won one World Championship.
Organised motor races have taken place in New Zealand since 1901, but it wasn’t until 1954 that the first annual New Zealand Grand Prix was held.
There were so few racing cars in New Zealand that, until 1964, all major events were held under ‘Formula Libre’ rules, with no limits on engine size, fuel type, car weight, or design. New Zealand drivers imported obsolete Formula One cars, and champion overseas drivers travelled here with their cars – providing valuable international race experience for New Zealanders.
The late 1950s to the mid 1970s was the golden age of New Zealand involvement in F1. Seven New Zealanders raced in F1 over that period, with the three big names being Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, and Chris Amon.
This footage shows New Zealanders Denny Hulme (McLaren M7A, car number 1), Bruce McLaren (McLaren M7A, car number 2), and Chris Amon (Ferrari 312, car number 20) coming first, second, and third in the XX British Racing Drivers' Club Daily Express International Trophy Formula One race, Silverstone, UK, 25 April 1968. © British Pathé, 1968.
The car driven by Denny Hulme to victory in this race can be seen in the exhibition.
Palmerston North teenager Brendon Hartley is the latest New Zealander to make it to F1, having gained his super licence (the licence granted by the FIA to race in F1) in 2009. As a test and reserve driver for the Red Bull team, he is still waiting for his first F1 start.
‘I’m not really there yet. There’s still some time to go and as a reserve driver there isn’t a big chance to get a race; but I have to pinch myself a bit because it’s a bit unreal when I think that I am here and knocking on the door.’
Brendon Hartley, 2009