Kiwis to contest Leadfoot Festival

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 2 Dec 2017 | Latest News
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Vaughn Gittin Junior will line up with Josh Coppins (right) and Scott Dixon (left) at February’s Leadfoot Festival. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Two New Zealanders are among the drawcard drivers and riders who will be racing on Rod Millen's driveway at the Leadfoot Festival in February

Every year entrants are selected by Millen to try their luck at the 1.6km hillclimb on his Hahei, Coromandel, property, and 2018 IndyCar hero Scott Dixon and former world championship motocross rider Josh Coppins will head to the start line.

Dixon will stick with the marque that supplied his IndyCar's engine this year - driving a Honda Type R hot hatch, while Coppins has used his role as a test rider for Yamaha to select the perfect motorbike for the short but challenging road - a 2018 Yamaha YZ 450, which he described as a ‘‘state-of-the- art bike, featuring numerous changes and some of the most innovative technology available to the consumer to date''.

Joining the two Kiwis, will be three-time world champion drifter Vaughn Gittin jun, who is coming to New Zealand for the first time. The Baltimore-based driver, who will bring his 2017 Mustang RTR X Spec 5-D, has recently set up a partnership with two-time D1NZ Champion ‘‘Fanga'' Dan Woolhouse, of Whangarei, who will drive a similar-spec Mustang. The pair of full-noise Fords are powered by Rouch Yates V8 engines that produce 900hp (671kW) and rev out to 9000rpm.

Gittin jun is a self-titled ‘‘professional fun-haver'' and is best known for his aggressive, foot-to-the-floor driving style. He won his first Formula Drift championship in 2010, and in 2013 was awarded the Ace Driver of the Decade title, recognising an impressive competition record that saw him win more tandem battle victories than any other driver in 10 years of Formula Drift history.

While he will be joining the festival's popular drift show, where competitors complete tyre-smoking runs for applause rather than to set fast times, the competitive natures of Dixon and Coppins mean they will be going for the coveted ‘‘King of Millen's Mile'' crown. Dixon attended the Waitangi weekend event in 2016 driving a 1906 Darracq, but the four-time IndyCar champion will have a much more spirited drive in the Type R, which recently set a lap record for front-wheel- drive cars at Germany's Nurburgring.

He and Coppins will face some stiff competition among 135 competitors, who will be driving and riding an eclectic array of vehicles and motorbikes.

After taking a last year off, Millen will be back in his monstrously-powerful 1994 Toyota Pikes Peak Hill Climb Celica as he attempts to wrest back the winner's trophy held by Scottish rally star Alister McRae, who took it from Rhys Millen in 2016.

Australia-based McRae is bringing the famous 1998 Vantage Motorsport ex-Possum Bourne World Rally Championship Subaru WRX STi back to defend his title.

Others to keep an eye on include Greg Murphy in his 2016 Holden Barina AP4 rally car and eight-time Pikes Peak winner Paul Dallenbach in his 2006 Dallenbach Special.