Rod Millen's Leadfoot Festival 2016 held on his Hahei Estate — this year over February 6–7 — sees an odd mix of machinery assembled unlike any other event in New Zealand every year. While the tarmac hill-climb-based driveway course may favour the 4WD rally / rallycross machines, there are all kinds of manic machines lining up to run the hill. The location, the event set-up, and the way the weekend runs, makes for a relaxed environment to be in. But that laid-back nature is in no way reflected in the machinery competing — check out a few spot lights from some of the more wilder machines.
A long-time on-track rival of Rod's, Paul Dallenbach, who hails from the USA, is a decorated Pikes Peak champion, in multiple classes — one of which is the Open class, behind the wheel of his homebuilt Dallenbach special. At first glance it looks to be the bastard child of an off-roader and an open-wheel circuit car.
Originally the car was built to run a gravel Pikes course, and it has evolved over the years to a tarmac machine as the course was paved more and more. The open wheeler runs in Open Wheel class, and it was Paul's back-up machine until that famous terrifying crash in 2012.
Check out that stack of wing mounts; that should give you an indication of the amount of downforce the oversized wing is generating. It is balanced out by the oversized front wing.
The engine is a small block Chevy that drinks a diet of methanol from individual injector stacks. The power is a whopping 900hp at the rear wheels.
The radiators are housed in both side pods, with exit vents just behind the yellow flap that you can see. The pod also houses the dry-cell battery.
Surprisingly the brakes are fairly lightweight items for a machine that travels at an average speed of 75mph at Pikes, and is regularly required to pull up from around 135mph over and over during a run.
Another American-motorsport superstar to make the trek was Tanner Foust, who brought along his Formula D–spec VW Passat. Now, for those not familiar with this car, it's been converted to rear-wheel drive using some tricky subframes to sit within the Formula Drift (FD) rule book.
The team at Papadakis Racing converted the front-wheel drive chassis using tubular subframes, custom arms, and a custom gearbox tunnel. The cog swapper is a four-speed G-force gearbox. The kit itself is made up of Rocket Bunny components from other models. The wheels are KMC.
This car makes 900hp — 200 of which comes directly from this bottle.
The other 700hp comes from this LS7-based V8 with FAST manifold. The sound of this car is pure awesome thanks to the stainless eight-into-one headers. The wild spaghetti of stainless occupies the entire front of the engine bay, forcing the radiator to be shifted to the boot.
Tanner sits in a Recaro seat with head restraints as per FD rules. During the event, the car was progressively faster and faster — Tanner himself is not only the star of Top Gear USA, he is also a very accomplished wheelman, former FD champion, stuntman, and rallycross driver
The fastest time for the weekend was a 57.83 — sideways and pouring smoke off the rear Nexan Tyres. Tanner made mention of returning in a Global Rallycross machine. If he does he will be a front runner without a doubt.
One of the more unassuming cars sitting in the pit paddock area was Kevin Sanderson's Toyota Starlet. But looks can be deceiving, and with a best time of 00:55.11, you can be damn sure there was a little more than a humble 4K sitting under the bonnet.
The first clue to what lurks beneath is the Suzuki Hayabusa gauge cluster hidden under the factory dashboard — 13,000rpm!
A 2008 Hayabusa Gen 2 engine can be found under the bonnet, complete with dry sump and sequential gearbox.
The engine looks so at home in the bay, if you didn't know any better one might think it was meant to be. Note the lightweight alloy engine mount. The engine makes 198hp.
And yes it boogies ...
Debuting a brand-new car at Leadfoot was Andrew Hawkeswood. Andrew's Force Motorsport have just put the finishing touches on the country's first AP4-specced rally machine — a ground-up build, featuring some mouth-watering components, all built here in New Zealand.
The Mazda 2 base runs all-spec suspension, which is transferable to a range of other similar-sized machines from other manufacturers.
The power plant is actually the same engine combo that was run in the Ford WRC-spec Focus: a Duratec 1600. This is backed by a Sadev six-speed rallycross gearbox.
The bodywork features custom widebody fenders that flow into the front bar. This car will contest the New Zealand Rally Championship that kicks off in April.
Earning a top-three spot in the Pre 65 class, Warren Snalam's tube-frame KE25 is no stranger to New Zealand circuits.
A full tube-frame chassis, Warren sits deep in the cockpit thanks to the recessed firewall.
The F20C engine and six-speed were kindly donated from a Honda S2000. The motor is dry-sumped and produces 260hp. Not earth-shattering figures, but the little KE seems to use every last one of those. If you want to check out more Leadfoot action grab a copy of NZ Performance Car Issue No. 232, which is on sale now at your local, or grab a print or digital copy below: