Time no longer on their side

By Catherine Pattison on Sun, 12 Feb 2017 | Latest News
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Allan Dippie his 1907 Sizaire et Naudin Voiturette Sport at the 2017 Leadfoot Festival. PHOTO: GEOFF RIDDER

Dunedin-based Dippie brothers Allan and Martin are regular competitors in fast-paced Porsches on the country's race-tracks and tarmac events, but they took a more historic pair of vehicles to last weekend's Leadfoot Festival.

The annual Hahei, Coromandel, event attracted more than 130 drivers, who competed for speed and style awards up event founder and venue owner Rod Millen's 1.6km driveway. While Scottish rally star Alister McRae took overall honours in the ex-Possum Bourne Vantage Motorsport WRX STi, clocking a blistering 49.43secs, Allan was just happy to get his 1907 Sizaire et Naudin Voiturette Sport to the top of the steep driveway.

‘‘I got a standing ovation for reaching the finish,'' he said, with a laugh.

He is the third owner of what is probably New Zealand's oldest original race car. It sports a single-cylinder 1460cc engine and has no gearbox but runs a three-speed differential. It was the first car in the world with independent front suspension and also has variable valve timing. It needed a riding mechanic to provide oil to the total loss lubrication system.

‘‘It was a marvellous old thing to race up there,'' Allan said.

He believed there was ‘‘more pressure'' trying to coax it to the top than trying to break into the Top Ten Shootout, where the qualifiers were separated by only four seconds.

Although Martin Dippie also enjoyed the relaxed nature of driving his beautifully restored 1927 Lagonda 2/4.5 Special endurance rally car, he admitted to ‘‘fast-car envy'' and thought he might have to take his late-model Porsche race car along next year.

‘‘One issue I've got: I've come to a gunfight with a knife, that's the problem with doing this vintage stuff,'' he said, smiling.

He was doing demonstration laps in his Lagonda, which has an extensive rally history in Europe, including completing the 10,000-mile (16,000km) London to Cape Town rally in 1998 and competing in the Rallye Monte Carlo, Le Mans, Le Jog and Brooklands to Barcelona events.

The Lagonda was well-received, with many people, young and old, approaching Martin to talk about it and the car was part of the varied mix of vehicles and motorbikes that made up the motorsport weekend, Martin said.

‘‘Where else do you get an event where two cars up [waiting for a run up the driveway] you've got Alister McRae, [two-time Indianapolis winner] Al Unser Junior in the [1915] Stutz and Rod Millen. There are all these different genres of cars. It's quite amazing.''

New Zealand Rally Championship driver Sloan Cox, of Rotorua, driving his 2004 Hill Climb Special Evo 8, clocked 50.83secs to finish second behind McRae, who was consistently fast all weekend.

It was the first time the winner's trophy has gone to anybody other than a Millen family member and McRae says he ‘‘managed to get a great run at the end there''. When asked if it was the perfect run, he laughed and said ‘‘no because Rod's gone quicker than that''.

His solution: ‘‘I'm coming back next year''.

Cox also vowed to return and expressed his desire to continue his pattern of going one place better each year, after a third placing in 2016.

Dean McCarroll, of Mount Maunganui, was third in his sports prototype 2008 Juno SSE in his second time at Leadfoot, with a time of 51.60secs. He described the course as ‘‘probably the most technical, demanding and fear-inspiring driveway I've ever driven up''.