1976 LOLA T332

It's mine...

KEN SMITH

KEN SMITH

They say classic racing is just to show the cars off but that’s not how I drive. I’m driving as hard now as I ever drove and that’s why I didn’t do the American Formula 5000 trip this year. They told us we weren’t allowed to race until we got to turn six and then we had to drive accordingly and not trim the edge of the grass otherwise we’d be sent home.

The organiser said that we’re “custodians and we want to show the cars”. Custodians, my arse! We own the cars, it’s up to us to do what we want with them.

Tim Schenken from CAMS said that these cars are too fast and dangerous and should be run under a safety car. I reckon he only said that is because we are quicker than V8 Supercars at Phillip Island. The day F5000 is run under a safety car I won’t be here.

Why is F5000 so popular? I think people love to see V8-powered cars with wide wheels. The average person doesn’t know anything about computerised F1 cars. You’ve got to learn to drive a F5000. They’re not hard to drive, anybody who’s got a brain can drive them. We know they don’t suck the ground like late-model cars so you have to drive them accordingly, on the throttle. They are a fantastic car and they have never run out of people wanting to watch them race. When they come out to race in NZ people line the fences. When other classes come out –and I’m not slagging them –people go for lunch.

I’m 73 now and a lot of people think that you lose your touch when you get older, and you probably do. If I was to stop for five years then come back I probably wouldn’t have the edge to poke the nose in. But doing it every year makes it easier. I’ve raced for 58 consecutive years without missing a season and won five New Zealand Gold Star championships, three New Zealand Grands Prix, five Lady Wigram Trophy races during the Tasman era with Jim Clarke, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill etc.

I love driving. I think I’m part natural driver and the other part maybe puts more effort into it than other people. But I was self-taught, there was no driver training in my day.

Nobody comes out of the woodwork and becomes the best in the world, they’ve got to work at it.