Classic racing meeting celebrates local legend

Petrol heads will rejoice at the George Begg Classic Speedfest this weekend – celebrating the late engineer and local motor racing legend himself.

With a grid full of the F5000 cars, the new-look annual classic racing meeting has attracted bumper entries across all classes, from all over New Zealand to Invercargill’s Teretonga Park.

Begg built several F5000 cars, including the FM2 then FM4, FM5 and 018. The 018, as originally raced by Jim Murdoch, and ex David Oxton and Allan McCully FM5s, are on display at the new George Begg Bunker in the Motorcycle Mecca building in Invercargill’s Tay Street.

Current owners, Terry and Tim Rush, are also bringing the Begg FM4, originally raced by Geoff Mardon then David Oxton, with them to display at Teretonga Park over the weekend.

Before New Zealand and Australia adopted the stock-block 302 cu in ‘wings-and-slicks’ formula that became known here as Formula 5000, and Formula A in the United States, the 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ formula meant that if drivers wanted to compete they had to buy an existing ex-works car.

The move to a stock-block engine formula opened the series up to an all-new group of talented all-round designer/builder/drivers like Graham McRae and Australia’s Frank Matich, and designer/builder/entrants like George Begg, and Garrie Cooper in Adelaide.

Set to contest the fourth round of this season’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the meeting are 16 restored and race-prepared Formula 5000 racing cars, including the Leda LT27s designed by Wellington-born Graham McRae and now owned by Queenstown man Alistair Hey and his partner Vicki.

Driving the blue-and-yellow-striped white 004 car (#94) is runaway series points leader, Michael Collins from Christchurch, while behind the wheel of the STP-liveried Leda LT27 001 (#22) is Southland’s own LeRoy Stevenson.

Two later models but visually identical McRae GM1s belonging to three-time former series champ Steve Ross (#5) from Dunedin and series regular Aaron Burson from Auckland will also be on the grid this weekend.