The golden era of one of motor racing’s most iconic classes – the mighty US-based Can-Am series of the sixties and seventies – is set to be revived in the home country of one of the category’s biggest stars.
The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing celebrating Denny Hulme will take place at the challenging Hampton Downs circuit over two weekends in January in 2013. Hulme was Can-Am champion twice in 1968 and in 1970 and runner up in 1967, 1969 and 1971 while racing for driver and constructor Bruce McLaren.
Many of the big V8-powered sports cars from the heyday of the championship still run in historic racing events throughout the world and festival organisers hope up to 20 of the Can- Am racers and other sports racing cars will bring their priceless machinery to race on January 18-20 and January 25-27 for the Denny Hulme Trophy – a unique cup that will be presented by the late 1967 Formula 1 World Champion’s wife Greeta Hulme to the winner of the six race championship.
The Can-Am cars will not be the only historic V8 racing cars in action. The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing has played host over the past three years to the world’s biggest gathering of Formula 5000 cars and these will race again in the 2013 event as will a big field of Australian, New Zealand and US V8-engined Historic Muscle Cars.
On-track, the Can-Am series in 1966 was initially dominated by Lola, followed by a period from 1967-71 that became known as the ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ when the works McLaren team dominating until the Porsche 917 turbo was perfected and became almost unbeatable. Other manufacturers who raced in Can-Am included Shadow, Chaparral, BRM, March and Matich as well as household names Ferrari and Ford. But it was the list of drivers that really read like a Who’s Who of motor racing at the time.
As well as Kiwis Hulme, McLaren, Chris Amon, Howden Ganley and Graeme Lawrence, Can-Am drivers included Mario Andretti, Jack Brabham, Mark Donohue, Vic Elford, George Follmer, Peter Gethin, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Phil Hill, David Hobbs, Jacky Ickx, Parnelli Jones, Jackie Oliver, Sam Posey, Brian Redman, Peter Revson, Pedro Rodríguez, Swede Savage, Jody Scheckter, Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees. Hollywood movie legend Paul Newman was another to grace the tracks in the mighty machines.
“At the peak of the series, Can-Am machines were the fastest racing cars in the world, quicker even than Formula One and highly innovative with a rule book that gave a virtual clean sheet of paper to the racing car designers of the time. Spectacular is really the only word that describes the cars,” said Festival of Motor Racing organiser Jim Barclay.
“Denny was one of Can-Am’s biggest names and the Denny Hulme Trophy to be presented by Greeta and her family will give every race fan in New Zealand, both old and young, the chance to go back in time and witness one of the sport’s greatest ever classes.”