23 Feb
23 February 2018

Manfeild experience wows golf hotshots

FIVE hard drivers in top-level golf have come to Manfeild for a race car experience that was anything but putt-putt.

Brad Shilton, David Smail, Harry Bateman, Luke Toomey and Brad Kennedy, all big hitters of the New Zealand PGA Championship running today and all weekend in Palmerston North, enjoyed free time from that competition yesterday (Thursday, February 22) to take a fast ride around Circuit Chris Amon, in the passenger seat of a high-powered European exotic.

Even though some of the guests had experienced performance cars on tracks before – and one, Smail, has such an interest in circuit sport that he is restoring a historic BMW to its Group A glory – they all agreed the experience of sitting in with celebrated national motorsport identity Christina Orr as she demonstrated the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 she regularly races was huge.

Experiencing the huge thrust of the 320kW/430bhp machine, from the Palmerston North-domiciled Mike Racing stable, peak at 207kmh on the circuit’s back straight was gob-smacking, they all agreed.

 “It was unreal, lots of speed – it’s just a total rocket ship, very cool,” commented Shilton.

Second in the hot seat, Bateman admitted to being a bit nervous – this being an entirely new immersion. And afterward?

“Unbelievable. The initial take-off was incredible … you’re just sucked back into the seat. And the speed you go into the corners. I don’t know how they do it.”

Smail knows race cars and loves motorsport, to the point where he has a pet project car under restoration that is intended for historic racing, a BMW 635 CSi coupe that won a Group A title back in its heyday. His love for BMWs also extends to him running as a road car another rare classic from the 1980s, a E30-series M3.

Yet even though he is used to the scene, he knew enough of the Aston’s pedigree – and the driver’s talents – to know he was in for a great treat.

“It sounds fantastic, it looks fantastic … it’s just special and a great way to experience my first time on Manfeild.”

Toomey jokingly imagined the Aston might lend similar performance to his daily drive, a humble Holden Cruze hatchback, but said he was seriously keen when the opportunity came up. “I’m excited.”

Kennedy was keen to see how the British thoroughbred compared with the V8 Supercar he’d ridden in a couple of years ago at Queensland Raceway and the Ferrari 458 he’d also driven at full blast on a circuit.

“I love getting into this stuff … I love driving them but I don’t mind being a passenger, either.”

The NZPGA tournament is hosted at the Manawatu Golf Club and is part of the Australasian PGA Tour. It has a full field of 132 professionals.

NZPGA golfers at Manfeild.jpg

Caption: All set to tee off … Christina Orr with golfers, from left, Brad Shilton, Luke Toomey, Brad Kennedy, Harry Bateman and David Smail at Manfeild yesterday.

Photo: Aaron Mai