Race driver Kenny Smith is unstoppable.
The Bombay resident has the longest Grand Prix career of any racer in the world, has driven touring cars when single-seaters weren’t on track, raced against and alongside some of the most famous names in Australasian motor racing, and in between has mentored the best and fastest young New Zealand drivers on their way up.
Until very recently, Smith was a guaranteed starter in the New Zealand Grand Prix. He began his motor racing career in 1958, meaning some of the drivers he competes against today have parents who were not born when the motorsport obsession took hold of him.
He says he has ‘lost count’ of the number of Grand Prix races he has started, and of the vast range of machinery he has raced. From hillclimb ‘specials’ to Formula Pacific and Atlantic single-seaters to touring cars and the FT40 race cars used during the first decade of the successful Toyota Racing Series, if it has a steering wheel, Smith has most likely raced it at some point.
Over the decades, many young New Zealand drivers have sought his wise advice as they shaped their career paths. Smith has a keen eye for the outstanding talents that rise through the ranks.
Now, Smith (73) has confirmed he will grid up for the Toyota Finance 86 Championship which starts at Pukekohe on November 7 and 8. He is no stranger to the single make sports coupe category, having finished just outside the top ten in the inaugural championship in 2013-2014.
He will race the number 11 car that took his protégé Tom Alexander to victory in the championship last year.
A record 16 drivers will start the first round at the Pukekohe V8 Supercars meeting on November 7 and 8.
Further rounds are at Hampton Downs on November 28 and 29 and then at three of the rounds of the Toyota Racing Series international championship at Ruapuna, Christchurch on January 16 and 17; Teretonga, Invercargill, January 23 and 24; Manfeild near Palmerston North on February 13 and 14, with the final at the Taupo circuit on March 26 and 27.
Every round of the championship has its own TV coverage with, a full hour running on TV3 a week after each race weekend and also coverage on SKY Sport; race weekend live timing is on the championship website, www.toyotaracing.co.nz and there is real-time narrative of the racing on Twitter.