9 Nov
9 November 2017

Classic role for Manfeild’s historic meet

LEADING every race field but never seeing the finish flag is Russell Byrne’s lot at a historic race car gathering at Manfeild renowned for its rich colour and character.

The Palmerston North local and longtime Manawatu Car Club member has a key role at this weekend’s The Sound MG Classic, driving the safety car that competing drivers follow to form up on the grid. He then ducks away before the lights go green.

It’s a fun duty for someone who has, in the past, been amongst the competing crowd, in a 1979 series 1 Mazda RX7, and a reminder of the crucial role played by volunteers filling a multitude of duties to ensure the longest-running and biggest classic race meeting in the country runs smoothly.

Byne doesn’t mind helping out: “It’s a chance to give something back to the sport and of course I enjoy Manfeild.”

The MG meeting is special, too, being an event that has as much for the family and general enthusiast as the purist. When Byne is not driving he can usually be found snatching a quick look in the pits, kicking tyres with all the other petrolheads.

“It’s a great meeting to see all the old stuff … the Formula 5000s, the classic saloons, those Group A cars. There are a lot of good memories there.”

The event’s 32nd running promises more than 200 competitors spread across nine categories covering open wheel, sports cars and saloons, with almost 50 races over Saturday and Sunday, following a shakedown tomorrow.

Top billing goes to the F5000 category; the meeting hosts the second round of a Tasman Cup Revival Series, for the five-litre V8 single-seaters. The competition got off to an exciting start at Pukekohe last weekend, with close racing up front and a big crash for home favourite Ken Smith, who hopes to be back in the fray this weekend. Joining the battle is Feilding driver Tim Rush in a McLaren M22 that was the last Formula 5000 chassis built by the famous factory.

The major classic sedans are also out in full force: It’s the first time all five significant categories have made it to Manfeild and the historic, pre-65, muscle car and all-comer groups are at particularly good strength.

Also returning are the Historic Touring Cars remembered best from the Nissan Mobil 500 races that were held on the Wellington waterfront street circuit more than 20 years ago. Plus, of course, there is a rich mix of classics spanning from the 1930s through to latest fare from the performance houses of Europe.

The practice sessions begin at 8.30am on Saturday followed by 22 races, while Sunday has a full-day of racing with 25 events on the programme beginning at 8.30am.

During the lunch breaks there will be the traditional gold coin charity laps that have raised more than $100,000 over the years for the Cancer Society and Kara Hands Charitable Trust.

Manfeild continues to stand out as the perfect host venue, with Circuit Chris Amon offering unsurpassed spectator viewing and a layout that makes for exciting driving, venue chief executive Julie Keane says.

Competitor and fan enthusiasm continues to drive the MG Classic, she says.

"The meeting has great status as one of those weekends fuelled by a real enthusiast spirit.”

MG Classic 2017.jpg

Caption: Safety car driving duty at the MG Classic racing meeting on Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon this weekend offers enthusiast Russell Byne a chance to give back to the sport he loves.