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Former seventies McLaren Formula 1 race mechanic and Team Manager, Alastair Caldwell, is coming “home” in early October to compete in the week long NZ Silver Fern International Marathon Rally.
Considered by many, himself included, to be a Kiwi, Caldwell who emigrated from Britain to NZ with his family at the age of six, now spends most of his life in the UK, where he prepares and enters his own cars regularly in various Classic, Historic and Marathon Rallies world wide.
Speaking from Scotland, Caldwell told delighted organisers “The idea of doing the Silver Fern has been in my mind for a while and when the opportunity came up to purchase a local MKI Ford Escort Twin Cam from Brent Tiney, it gave me the incentive to come home and support a fun event, which I feel will given the right push, go on to much greater things.”
“I’m proud to call myself a New Zealander, and have property in the Auckland suburb of Devonport, and would love to see this kind of event become part of some sort of World Series. Many of the UK based driver who have entered, I know well, and they are all saying that New Zealand could be the place for the future. It is very hard to get road closures for events in Europe now, and you are very lucky with your roads down there.”
“I met Gary Smith (Rally Chairman) doing what I enjoy, rallying from London to Sydney in 1993. I’m fortunate to have a good Self Storage business which allows me to be able to play with old cars, and I get much enjoyment from the thrill of competition.” Caldwell said.
I’ll be back down in New Zealand next week to look at the car, and to organise for the event, I’ve even had an offer of help from an old mate Tim Riley. Normally I do all my own servicing so that will be a new experience.”
Caldwell started life as a race mechanic in the early sixties, working on his brother Bill’s Lola, and Brabham single seater cars. However in 1965 Bill was tragically killed in an accident at Teretonga Park near Invercargill.
A year off to asses his future, lead him on a trip to England, where he went to the McLaren team factory and promptly asked for a job. Starting as a fabricator he ultimately became Bruce McLaren’s chief mechanic in F1.
Caldwell was at the Goodwood race circuit, where he helped put out the fire and recover McLaren from the crashed car before he tragically died. Following McLaren’s death he became their race and then Team Manager.
During his years with McLaren he oversaw Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1974 World Championship and James Hunt’s title in 1976. He then moved to Brabham in 1977 (Nelson Piquet’s title winning year), leaving in 1981, for a stint with ATS before retiring from the Formula 1 scene a year later.
Now-a-days he’s driving anything from a classic Mercedes’, right up to a modern Peugeot 205 Rallye car. Caldwell is no slug behind the wheel, having twice won the World Cup Rally events. The second win was as he describes it “was the most satisfying of my career, beating all the four wheel drives, with the little Peugeot, even beating Ian Freestone’s Escort”
He has also competed in the London to Sydney marathon events in 1993 and 2000, as well as various South American, African and European events.
“I’m really looking forward to an event in New Zealand” Caldwell concluded.
The NZ Silver Fern Rally will start from the Picton waterfront, at midday on Saturday October 7th, before teams compete their way around the South Island with overnight stops in Greymouth, Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch before returning via Nelson to the finish in Blenheim.
Event organisers would like to acknowledge the assistance of sponsors, Scenic Circle Hotels, Budget Rentals, Team Talk Mobile, Variety and Kea Campers New Zealand.
Full details of the event, are available from www.silverfernrally.co.nz
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