Only recently turned 17 and already one of the most acclaimed stars of US sprintcar racing, Michael ‘Buddy’ Kofoid, gets his first taste of New Zealand clay at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway on Saturday, December 29 when he mixes it with many of the South Island’s top drivers competing in round four of the $100,000 2018/19 Hydraulink Sprintcar War of the Wings (Wow). He’ll race again at the January 1 meeting and on several other South Island tracks in preparation for competing in the Civil Construction 2019 NZ Sprintcar Title in Cromwell on February 1 and 2.
Even more amazing, Buddy first got behind the wheel of an 850 – 900 horsepower sprintcar at 11, too young to race in his home state of California. Coincidently, two of the drivers who have competed against Buddy in the States are first and third on the Wow leader board coming to Cromwell – Former Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway ‘t’ driver, 2015 1NZ and defending Wow champion, Jamie ‘Duff Man’ Duff (299 pts) and ‘t’ driver Daniel Anderson (253 pts) who is responsible for bringing Buddy to New Zealand.
Jamie, at 28 is one of a crop of New Zealand sprintcar young guns, says he’s always been wowed by the way Buddy runs, catches and passes top ‘World of Outlaw’ drivers – “He has a well-deserved reputation”.
A jetboat marathon racer who in 2011 was wooed over to sprintcars by Jason ‘Capt’ Scott, a fellow ‘t’ driver and current Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway promoter, Daniel has since his first sprintcar season been escaping New Zealand winters to race in the States and Canada where he confesses to never beating Buddy who he says is a very clean driver with great tactical vision.
Daniel’s strong connection with North America goes back to his jetboat racing days and motors built by British Columbia-based Jim Richmond who currently builds engines for Buddy and will be coming out to watch him compete for the NZ Sprintcar Title. Before then though, Buddy’s sprintcar owner and former champion driver, Doug Rutz, will be flying in from Canada for his young star. For the past two seasons, Doug has been visiting to New Zealand to support Daniel’s racing but as owner and chef of Te Anau’s The Ranch Bar & Grill, Daniel says with a laugh that he believes the big attraction for Doug is less about sprintcars and more about The Ranch’s burgers and blue cod.
Daniel is careful not to oversell Buddy, with a reminder that track conditions between North America and New Zealand can be very different, that he’ll be driving a borrowed sprintcar and South Island drivers will definitely give him a run for the money. On Saturday, December 15 at Ruapuna for War of the Wings round 3, Daniel himself had to contend with a very slick track that in the feature race contributed to taking out fellow ‘t’ driver and sprintcar young gun, ‘Slamming’ Sammy O’Callaghan who dropped down the leader board to 8th with 204 points. Daniel’s 7th place was enough to keep him third on the board with young ‘t’ driver Jayden Dodge’s feature race win lifting him to 6th place overall.
As much as sprintcars will be a big attraction at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway on Saturday, December 29, there’s plenty of variety and excitement among support classes that include low, wide and fast saloons competing in Day 1 of the always hotly contested Southern Saloon Series. The annual Christmas Champs has attracted good fields of big horsepower Super Saloons, fast and furious open wheeler Six Shooters, surprisingly exciting Productions and always fun to watch Youth Ministocks with 12 to 16 year olds showing how it’s done.
And that’s just Saturday! ‘Central Otago’s Fastest Family Show on Earth’ continues on Tuesday, Jan 1 with all classes racing in the New Year’s Champs which will be run to a GP format of two heats and a final, not forgetting it will be the final of the 2019 South Saloon Series.
Gates open at 4pm for trackside parking with racing starts at 6pm both days. Before and during the night’s racing, make time to visit the pits (children must be accompanied by an adult) to meet drivers, their crews and also collect free posters. If Buddy achieves the dream of following his hero Ayrton Senna into Formula 1, it might be that you’ll be able to proudly show his autograph signed when he raced at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway.