Two famous names return to the sweeping corners and high speed straights of Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend as the Toyota Finance 86 Championship welcomes Oxton and Smith back to touring car racing.
Ken Smith and David Oxton last met at Pukekohe in single seaters in 1984, when they raced in Formula Pacific.
Now Smith – who still contests the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild every summer – returns to touring car racing and David Oxton’s son Richard grids up against Smith as he makes his 86 championship debut.
Ken Smith needs little introduction to most New Zealand race fans. He has raced every major type of single-seater series on New Zealand circuits in a career that has spanned 55 years to date. Like David Oxton, he has been a New Zealand household name for generations of motor racing fans. In addition to their signle-seater racing careers, both Smith and Oxton have raced ‘tintops’ with distinction.
Best known for his single-seater racing exploits, Smith – just “Kenny” to whole generations of race-goers – won the New Zealand Gold Star series in the 1975–1976, 1983–1984, 1984–1985, 1986–1987 and 1989–1990 seasons. He has won the New Zealand Grand Prix three times in very different race cars: 1976, in a Lola Chev F5000 car, 1990 in a Swift Cosworth Formula Pacific car and 2004 in a Van Diemen Stealth Evo.
Now he is going racing in a TR 86 sports coupe prepared by Trevor Scheumack’s ETEC Motorsport team.
Smith will race this weekend under a race number that has strong emotional ties for many New Zealanders: the #47 that adorns his TR 86 race car was Bruce McLaren’s when McLaren and Denny Hulme dominated motor racing in the USA and Europe.
Smith has been mentoring Christchurch driver Tom Alexander, who races in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship under Smith’s customary number 11.
“So we had to work out a new number for this car and Trevor was keen to pick up that #47,” he said.
The Oxton connection is generational. Richard Oxton has been contesting New Zealand one make racing series for four years, fitting competition around work, family life and university study for a mechanical engineering degree.
His dad David went wheel to wheel with Kenny Smith in the heyday of Formula 5000 and Formula Pacific, starting his single-seater career in 1968, winning the inaugural New Zealand Formula Ford title and scoring three Gold Star (Formula 5000) series wins before switching to Formula Pacific where he won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1983.
Throughout his career, David Oxton’s race number was 18. In a happy coincidence, the TR 86 car his son now takes over is registered in the championship under race number 18.
Richard Oxton has a strong history of kart racing – and race wins – behind him, having raced from junior grades up to Rotax Max. He raced the Formula Ford championship in 2007-2008 before switching to one-make touring car racing in the newly established BMW E30 series.
Image: Famous motor racing names at Pukekohe this weekend. Richard Oxton, left, grids up with Ken Smith (centre) this weekend. Richard’s dad David, right, raced against Kenny for many years and has been a keen follower of the Toyota Finance 86 Championship.