Twenty seventeen has been an odd, but unusually satisfying year behind the lens for me. It has been the first time in a long that that I haven’t set foot in Japan at all, and I thought this would be weirder than it actually was. Most of you know me for my heavily Japanese orientated content, and the prospect of predominantly shooting non-Japanese subjects scared me a little. I jumped out of my comfort zone a bit, and enjoyed the new subjects that I found in front of me.
Now it is time to sum up the year that was, and I have taken nine shoots or events to showcase this year. Some crazier than others, but all were such an awesome experience to capture.
NZ 4X4 trials
I followed Scott and Jarred Biggs for a round as they tackled the NZ Championship in their 4×4 trials truck. Basically the same as observed motorcycle trials but minus the bike and throw in a LS-powered truck. Scott runs the throttle and wheel, while Jarred operates 4 independent hydraulic brakes to position the truck exactly where they want it while making their way through each obstacle. At times the truck has the poise of a ballerina, and others it is just wide open throttle and hold on for dear life.
Don Halliday Escort
I was lucky enough to shoot the winningest car in NZ motorsport history this year as well. The Don Halliday MkI Escort was built in the early ’70s and has been raced for over 44 years. What makes this car special isn’t the paint, but the fact that this is still the original chassis, and the car still races in period correct spec. If this car could talk…
Blown Grand Prix Hydroplanes
These are part boat, part plane, and make enough noise to raise the dead, and if the water is flat there isn’t much that can keep up with them. When the pilots put their foot up it, the boats are capable of 270-280kph. Throttle control is of paramount importance as when the front lifts at speed you need to know exactly when to get out of it to bring the nose down otherwise you will find yourself somersaulting end over end. Pumping out 2000 horsepower in a boat is next level crazy, and brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘pleasure boating’.
James Mangin – Rocketbunny S15
This car is a personal favourite of mine as when James first told me he wanted to build a Rocketbunny S15, he insisted that he needed to buy the kit in person and shake Miura-san’s hand. Buying the kit over the internet simply wasn’t an option so we booked tickets to Japan and I took James to meet the man himself. Over dinner he told Miura-san he had come to buy a kit and did the deal. Right after dinner we were taken back to the Rocketbunny headquarters and Miura-san showed James his kit that would be boxed up. With the car now complete, there has been no compromise on anything. It is ‘badquality’ low, and has all the anger and presence of a modern ‘shakotan’ street drifter. This S15 is so low is scrapes on the curve of the road, but that is all part of low car life.
Held annually on Rod Millen’s ranch in Hahei, the Leadfoot festival is the Kiwi answer to Goodwood. A raft of amazing cars, drivers, and displays this is the perfect weekend out in the sun. Often I head to events because they are destined for a magazine, yet this was one that I went to shoot just for myself. Getting to meet drivers like Jimmy McRae, and his son Alister were certainly highlights, while so was seeing cars like Paul Dallanbach’s Pikes Peak monster.
To top the event off, I passed by Nan Su’s shop and picked up RWB NZ #2 – Hekigyoku to make the trip over in. It was amazing to be reunited with Hekigyoku, and although she was a bit dirtier than normal, it is proof that these cars aren’t just show paperweights, at least here in NZ we drive them like they like Nakai-san does – everywhere!
Shea Peterson – Cuda
A buddy of mine introduced me to Shea a while back while this amazing car was in the build. Once it was buttoned up and ready it was shot for NZV8 magazine. My first Cuda, and what a build it was. This big block Cuda has some serious attitude, and has the power and noise to back up the amazing looks.
Mad Mike Summer Bash
I had been a while since I snapped drifting, so I took a trip up to Hampton Downs to check out Mad Mike Whiddett’s Summer Bash. With drifting, grip racing, and a hardpark all at the same venue this event was on point. Mike was running all of his cars too, so to see all them in one place was pretty special. The aroma of pre-mix all weekend was well worth the trip up!
RWB Australia – from life after birth to 12 hours of racing movie premier
This year the NZ family all headed to Melbourne for Chern Wong’s film premier at IMAX. RWB on the big screen was a world-first, and to celebrate; all three of the RWB NZ porkers headed to Aussie to commemorate this cinematic masterpiece. Nan, Royce Mihaere (Waikato & Heki’s godfather), and Ben Sinclair (King of Timaru) among others made the trip over to celebrate the film for a one-off screening. I am sure I can vouch for them in saying the film was mind-blowing and to have Nakai-san there with us made things extra special.
This year I have had the opportunity to assist in getting an endurance race team off the ground and running here in New Zealand. Originally based overseas, but now relocated to NZ, the team primarily runs three SLS AMG GT3 machines, and a Aston Martin Vantage GT4. The opportunity to assist the team with still imagery as well as logistical and pitstop work has been an unexpected but fun experience. Roll on 2018!
Elliot Brown – Rocketbunny 180SX
It is always fun to see cars built with parts and kits of friends in Japan. So when I got the call to shoot Elliot’s Rocketbunny I couldn’t help but jump at it. This street-legal race car is powered by a LS and is equally at home drifting, or grip. The thing that makes this one just a wee bit different from most is that it was built primarily for competition, but is equally good for a run to the dairy.
So there it is folks! 2017 is a wrap, although it isn’t long before I am back behind the lens on December 27th. There might not be much of a break although seeing as it is summer here in NZ, the motivation to get out and shoot is high so roll on 2018!