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Topping the most competitive 10-driver line-up for the King of Millen’s Mountain title today, in the Leadfoot Festival’s history, was the supremely talented Alister McRae in his Vantage Motorsport Subaru WRX STi.

Rocketing up the 1.6km (mile-long) driveway in 49.43 secs, the Scottish rally star beat Rotorua’s Sloan Cox in his 2004 Hill Climb Special Evo 8, who clocked 50.83secs.

Alister McRae, 2017 Leadfoot winner. (Photo: GeoffRidder)McRae was consistently fast all weekend at the Coromandel Peninsula event held on Rod and Shelly Millen’s ocean-front ranch and was the only driver to go under 50secs, in the meticulously-prepared Subaru. It was running a whopping 850hp (633kW) engine and full tarmac specification, with bigger brakes, rims and tyres.

It was the first time the winner’s trophy has gone to anybody other than a Millen family member and McRae says he “managed to get a great run at the end there.” When asked if it was the perfect run, however, he laughed and says “no because Rod’s gone quicker than that.”

His solution – “I’m coming back next year!”

Cox also vowed to return and expressed his desire to continue his pattern of going one place better each year, referencing his third placing at the 2016 Leadfoot Festival.

Dean McCarroll, of Mount Maunganui, was third in his sports prototype 2008 Juno SSE in his second time attending the Leadfoot Festival, with a time of 51.60secs. He described the driveway as “probably the most technical, demanding and fear-inspiring driveway I’ve ever driven up.”

In a testament to the event’s popularity, the spectator numbers doubled from last year’s 14,000 Saturday and Sunday race fans.

While Leadfoot Festival founder and ranch owner Rod Millen did not make the Top Ten Shootout this year – due to his thunderous Toyota Celica being out of action – his 1975 Mazda RX3 won the 1960 to 1975 category. Millen’s enjoyment of the event extended well beyond just the racing.

“I’m proud of how well this event has been received. I want to say thank you for the incredible support from our corporate partners, from all our guests, our competitors and our volunteers. The credibility that the Leadfoot Festival has now is so rewarding for my wife Shelly and I and it truly is still a festival,” Millen said.

The visiting star drivers had nothing but high praise for the Leadfoot Festival. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Junior, of the United States, was thoroughly enjoying his debut not only at the event but also his first visit to New Zealand.

“I’m having the time of my life and I’ve had a great time in the [1915] Stutz,” he says.

He thanked the Southward Museum for loaning him the historic racer for the Leadfoot Festival.

“It’s an absolute treat to drive. I’ve been going up the driveway waving to the fans and they were all waving back,” Unser says.

The Stutz was the winner of the Best in Show category and was just one of many beautiful, historic cars that help make the Leadfoot Festival the special event that it is -  encapsulating all eras of motorsport, dating back to the early 1900s.

Thousands of spectators wandered through the open-to-the-public pit area admiring the vastly varied cars, motorbikes and even a Super Truck. They enjoyed chatting to the drivers and their crew in this unique, relaxed racing environment.
Perhaps a scene that sums up what the Leadfoot Festival is all about was when Tennessee’s Ron Hope fired up his nitro-methane-fuelled 3000hp (2237kW) drag car. The thunderous exhaust notes saw the crowd plugging their ears with their fingers, while grinning broadly and then giving him a round of applause when he shut the engine down after a few minutes.

For all those who came along and enjoyed the Leadfoot Festival and all those who weren’t able to make it this year, book your tickets for the 2018 event to be held again over Waitangi Weekend - February 3 and 4. See you all here!

Top Ten Shootout times

1. Alister McRae – 1998 Vantage Motorsport Subaru WRX Impreza – 49.43secs

2. Sloan Cox – 2004 Hill Climb Special Evo 8 – 50.83secs

3. Dean McCarroll – 2008 Juno SSE – 51.60secs

4. Ian Ffitch – 2002 BRM 1000 Super Quad – 51.72secs

5. Andrew Hawkeswood – 2016 Mazda 2 AP4 – 52.22secs

6. Greg Murphy – 2016 AP4 Holden Barina – 52.25secs

7. Carl Ruiterman – 2009 Subaru WRX STi – 52.55secs

8. Paul Dallenbach – 2006 Dallenbach Special – 52.62secs

9. David Donner – 2005 Donner/Dykstra Pikes Peak Special – 54.80secs

10. Leigh Hopper – 2004 Subaru STi C Spec RA – 75.21secs

1960 – 1975 Category

1. Rod Millen -  1975 Mazda RX3 -  52.75secs

2. Clark Proctor – 1973 March 73A F5000 -  52.93secs

3. Paul McCarthy – 1974 Ford Escort RS1600 – 54.01secs

Pre 1960 Category

1. Robert McNair – 1931 Riley Nine Special – 63.33secs

2. Ray Ferner – 1932 Ralph Watson BSA FW32 – 63.35secs

3. Steve Day – 1959 Briggs Mercury V8 Special – 65.53sec

Best in Show

1.      Al Unser Junior – 1915 Stutz

2.      ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse – 2016 VF Holden Commodore

3.      Ernie Nagamatsu – 1959 Old Yeller 11 Buick Special

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