The Leadfoot Festival will once again be turning on the star power in 2018, with the Waitangi Weekend event hosting three, absolute global headline-grabbers IndyCar hero Scott Dixon – brought home by Honda New Zealand – motocross legend Josh Coppins and World Champion drifter Vaughn Gittin Junior.
This trio will be racing up Rod Millen’s fabulous 1.6km driveway in Hahei, Coromandel, amongst 135 competitors, driving and riding an incredible, eclectic array of vehicles and motorbikes over the annual, must-attend motorsport event on February 3 and 4.
One of New Zealand motorsport’s most successful circuit racing exports, Scott Dixon is returning to the Leadfoot Festival from his base in the United States to have a competitive crack at Millen’s Mountain. In 2016, he charmed the thousands of spectators dotted around the 150-acre ocean-front property, which is home to the perfect hill climb, driving a historic 1906 Darracq. This time around Dixon means business and the four-time IndyCar champion will be piloting a 2017 Honda Civic Type R in his new role as an Ambassador for Honda New Zealand.
Dixon marked his 16th year with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017, which is the longest tenure for a driver in team history (1990-present). Dixon, who finished third in this year’s series, holds the distinction of being the most successful, active IndyCar driver with 40 victories and he is currently ranked fourth on the all-time IndyCar win list.
The 2017 Honda Civic Type R will provide a spirited drive for Dixon. It set a new benchmark lap time for front-wheel drive cars at Germany’s Nurburgring Nordschleife, lapping the world famous circuit in 7 minutes 43.80 seconds. Ultimately, with a driver of Dixon’s calibre behind its wheel, actions will speak louder than foreign track records.
Also coming from the United States, is Baltimore-based global drift sensation Vaughn Gittin Jr. A three-time World Drift Champion, he is guaranteed to put on an unmissable show, as the self-titled ‘professional fun-haver’ is best known for his aggressive, foot-to-the-floor, big-smoke driving style.
Gittin Jr’s Leadfoot charger is coming over from the United States with him and will be a 2017 Mustang RTR X Spec 5-D. This full-noise Ford is powered by a Rouch Yates V8 engine that produces 900hp and revs out to 9,000rpm.
Gittin Jr 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 take more tandem battle victories than any other driver in 10 years of Formula Drift history.
His accomplishments span the globe. In 2005, he became the first American ever to win a D1 Grand Prix event and then brought the title home again for the USA in the 2007 World Championship.
The third headline driver is motocross sensation Josh Coppins, who hails from Motueka, when he is not travelling the world with his Altherm JCR Yamaha race team.
The JCR team of up-and-coming motocross stars was established in partnership with Yamaha Motors New Zealand in 2013 after Coppins’ retirement from his successful motocross career in Europe and Australasia.
During his 17 years of professional racing, Coppins achieved a massive 13 world championship race wins; was twice runner-up World MX1 Champion; and claimed championships across the world – two British, one Belgium, one Italian, two Australian and 21 titles in New Zealand.
Coppins is favouring a 2018 Yamaha YZ 450 as his weapon of choice to take on the Leadfoot Festival driveway. He describes it as a “state of the art bike, featuring numerous changes and some of the most innovative technology available to the consumer to date.”
As a test rider for Yamaha, Coppins has been lucky enough to be involved in the research and development of this model and is looking forward to reaping the benefits come Waitangi Weekend, in Hahei.
He says that racing up Millen’s immaculately-prepared driveway has been a “bucket list event of [his] for a while now.”
“I have passed the venue many times while holidaying at Cooks Beach with my partner Amy so I am really looking forward to it. Like most guys, I’m motorsport mad so I can’t wait to see all the cars and bikes. And the venue is spectacular too,” Coppins says.
Rally and off-road motorsport legend Millen personally hand selects the championship racers from around the world to receive the coveted invitation to participate in the Leadfoot Festival and he is thrilled to have such an impressive line-up again at next year’s event.
“It is a real honour to have Scott come back and race here again at Leadfoot. He was such a hit two years ago. Vaughn will be a wonderful addition to the drift show that has become synonymous with this event. Those boys sure know how to rev up the crowd with their rubber-wrecking antics. Motorbikes are also a huge part of the Leadfoot Festival and we are excited to welcome Josh for the first time,” Millen says.
After taking a year off last year, Millen’s monstrously-powerful 1994 Toyota Pikes Peak Hill Climb Celica will be back in fire-breathing action, as its owner attempts to wrest back the winner’s trophy.
He will be up against some seriously stiff competition, with this year’s Leadfoot winner Scottish rally star Alister McRae bringing the famous 1998 Vantage Motorsport ex-Possum Bourne World Rally Championship WRX STi back to defend his title.
Other fast-men are circuit racing household name Greg Murphy, who will be going for the win in his 2016 Holden Barina AP4 rally car and the phenomenally-fast Pikes Peak International Hill Climb-winning 2006 Dallenbach Special. This 900hp open-wheeler will be driven by its owner and namesake American racer Paul Dallenbach, who is an eight-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winner.