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Thread: Levin and Cabbage Tree Corner

  1. #1
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    Levin and Cabbage Tree Corner

    Thanks to John Climo, Laurie Brensall and Grant Ellwood who have given me permission to share here on TRS, some of their wonderful information and photos etc. from the glory days at the Levin circuit. This was a circuit that I often heard about but did not know much about and I wanted to share some of what have learnt.
    The road course was due to the efforts of Englishman Ron Frost who settled in Levin after WW 2. It was first raced on in 1956 and was closed about 20 years later.
    Although not much more than a mile around it hosted some of the best drivers in the world. The track was in the confines of the Levin Racecourse and there is nothing there today to remind one of what was Cabbage Tree Corner or Hokio Bend on the map displayed. The aerial photo does show today where the Hairpin was. (At the red dot.)

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    Looking south


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    Looking north.

    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 10-18-2022 at 11:38 PM.

  2. #2
    This place was heaven for many. It sorted out genuine drivers from the money reliant.

  3. #3
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    Trevor,
    After looking at this grainy old video I can see how the sweeping curve through Cabbage Tree caused issues for many drivers including whoever was driving the Lycoming Special # 47



    ( If anyone can fill in; who and when etc. from the video, please do so. )


    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 10-19-2022 at 07:14 AM.

  4. #4
    Yes, it provided the better driver with the prospect of an advantage, which is what motor racing should be all about. Should a golf course be devoid of bunkers? LOL

    Even those with a limited budget could enter the curve at the end of the straight at a speed whereby it was possible to achieve a long continuing drift in the true essence of motor racing. The wonderful sensation will remain in my memory forever.
    Last edited by Trevor Sheffield; 10-20-2022 at 07:13 AM.

  5. #5
    I would not be 100%m but the Lycoming roll is likely when Jim Boyd had it. There was one of those back page photos in Motorman with the CY plate number, and a caption along the lines "You can see why Jim Boyd is so fast in Hillclimbs". It has to be from 65 (or is it 64) onwards anyway.

  6. #6
    Jim Boyd's accident in the Lycoming happened at the March 1965 Levin meeting.

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  7. #7

  8. #8
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    Another nasty-looking accident at the Cabbage Tree Corner (Hokio Bend ) that can be briefly seen in the film clip happened in 1964.
    Fortunately, no one was injured.
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    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 10-20-2022 at 04:45 PM.

  9. #9
    I was there and well remember the incident.

  10. #10
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    Ron Frost was a major force in elevating New Zealand motor racing to a place of world renown through the 1960s and 1970s. After racing motorcycles in pre-World War II England, then converting to 500cc single-seater cars after the war, Ron emigrated to New Zealand in 1952. He and another Englishman, Arnold Stafford, opened a Hillman, Chrysler dealership and went to work and also found time to race their 500 cc JBS race cars.

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    Some JBS 500 cc race car information.

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    (Ken H )

  11. #11
    Looking at the aerial photo I reckon I can see where parts of the track were.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldfart View Post
    Looking at the aerial photo I reckon I can see where parts of the track were.
    Agree, for sure..

  13. #13
    Might be even easier like this:




  14. #14
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    Ron Frost created New Zealand’s first permanent international car racing track here in 1956, foreseeing the need to move on from our temporary circuits on open roads and aerodromes. His vision, confidence and enduring contacts back in England were largely responsible for the acclaimed Tasman Series being established in 1964. This attracted the world’s finest Grand Prix drivers to New Zealand and Australia throughout the rest of that decade. Every Formula 1 world champion between 1959 and 1971 raced at Levin at least once during that period and the town benefited greatly from the thousands of fans who flocked in to watch them. ( " Heritage Horowhenua".)
    He also set up the NZ Driver to Europe program that sent Bruce McLaren, Denis Hulme and George Lawton on their way to race in Europe. He worked with Australia's Geoff Sykes to bring the very best drivers to race here in Australasia and I look back and realize how grateful I am to have been around during that era.
    As I read Ron's biography here I think it would have made a wonderful movie script.
    https://www.hh.org.nz/horowhenua/pro...ROST%20Ron.pdf

    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 10-23-2022 at 07:17 AM.

  15. #15
    Our friend the late David McKinney saw the Tasman Cup thing differently...

    When I asked him about contributing to the Tasman Cup book Tony Loxley produced he declined, saying that the decline in the 'international series' entry after 1961 was definite and that the Tasman Cup did nothing to arrest that decline. "The whole grid from the USGP at Riverside came to New Zealand after that race," he told me, but we never saw anything like that level of participation again.

    But that's not to say it wasn't good, nor to say that it wasn't as good as it could be given the parameters of the era. We all loved what we got, we looked forward to it every year and longed to see the Ferraris come out.

    Right?

  16. #16
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    Ray,
    I still think it was amazing that from the mid sixties when F1 had 3 liter engines and the Tasman limit was at 2.5 liter we had all the teams such as Lotus, Brabham, BRM, Ferrari etc build special engines to come out and compete and that is where I give Mr. Frost and Mr. Sykes a lot of credit. It meant that in the right conditions the local drivers such as Kerry Grant, Roly Levis, Frank Gardner, Frank Matich could race right up there with the "big boys". and at less than a 1.25 mile circuit, racing at Levin was was wonderful entertainment apparently.
    (Ken H)

  17. #17
    Not forgetting that Gardner was one of the 'Internationals'...

    He'd buy a car for the Mildren team to enter and then use the following year. Or two.

    In fact, from 1966 the special engines began as expanded now-defunct 1.5-litre units, I don't know what the Ferrari engine was but it was supposed at the time that it was a 1960 engine. Four valves per cylinder sort of knocks that idea on the head. So it was most likely an expanded F2 engine. Brabham's Repco engines, of course, were no trouble to put together because Repco were making them for entrants here, though it's clear that the engine was better suited to the 3-litre configuration than the 2.5. Remembering that this engine was also initially available in 4.4 litres and versions went out to five litres.

    Of course time saw the visitors bringing out smaller versions of their 3 litre engines, BRM and Lotus with the Cosworth, one of which was also used by Piers Courage.

    Geoff Sykes wasn't always happy with his relationship with Ron Frost. He saw him as dominating the driver choices when he was making approaches in Europe, but deferred because Frost had an annual trip over there at least partially funded by other interests (business etc).

  18. #18
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    The first event held at the Levin circuit was in January 1956. It was well attended and a busy race schedule kept the crowd entertained.
    Here are some clippings from that day.
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    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 10-26-2022 at 11:18 PM.

  19. #19
    Javelins featuring well there, Ken...

    Such variety in the fifties. People still learning how to make things go fast, experimenting and having fun.

  20. #20
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    Thanks again to John Climo for allowing me to share these images of the early events at Levin. The second Levin meeting was in October 1956.
    One of the entrants there was Auckland business man and race driver, Tom Clark..
    Tom was driving an HWM 2 litre HWM he had purchased from Australian Tony Gaze earlier in the year.
    The Hesham & Walton Motors (HWM ) # 22 had an Alta 2 litre super charged engine.
    More about this car can be read at this site.
    https://primotipo.com/2019/12/13/ton...-zealand-1954/

    Tom Clark during a practice session at Levin.
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    Tom Clark in HWM # 22 on race day.
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    Driver safety was not a priority it seems at that time!
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    Tom had to work hard to stay ahead of the pesky 500 cc Coopers of Ron Frost # 15 and Arnold Stafford.
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    (Harold Plimmer photos.)


    (Ken H)

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