Age has not diminished the need for speed for veteran New Zealand race-car driver Kenny Smith.
The 79-year-old creates history this weekend when he lines up for his 50th New Zealand Grand Prix at the Hampton Downs circuit, south of Auckland.
A three-time winner of the event, Smith said the milestone was nice but insisted it was simply a product of his ongoing love for racing.
“I don’t go out looking for numbers and when I started motor racing all I wanted to do was keep racing.
“I didn’t say, ‘well I’m going to go for so many years and that’ll be a record’. I just love driving and every time I get a chance to get in the car it’s a thrill.”
Smith’s first New Zealand Grand Prix came in 1976.
It was a time when the race regularly featured the likes of Kiwi motorsport legends Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, along with international superstars such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jack Brabham.
His second win came in 1990, with his most recent in 2004 at the age of 63.
That number was also the amount of years Smith had been racing for, having never missed a season since he started out in the sport.
And he had no plans to stop anytime soon.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘oh geez, you’re getting old driving those cars’.
“But the thing is, I don’t look at it on an age basis. Before I get in, I don’t think ‘Geez, I’m 79, what am I doing driving this’.
“I don’t feel any different to what I did 50 years ago jumping in a car. I’m just eager to get in that car, let the clutch out and get going. Age doesn’t really come into it.”
Alongside Smith for his milestone moment on Sunday will be an impressive field.
Supercars stars Shane van Gisbergen and Andre Heimgartner, four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy, as well as other international successful New Zealanders like Chris van der Drift and Daniel Gaunt were all confirmed starters.
Smith, though, wasn’t worried about his chances of success.
Simply starting and finishing in one piece, he said, would be more than good enough.
“I know I’ve got a battle on my hands because 12 weeks ago I had a replacement shoulder and I know I’m struggling steering the car at the moment.
“But I have to put the pain aside and try and do as good as I can, so it doesn’t worry me in the slightest if I’m running last.
“As long as I’m out there running the car in the GP and I’m finishing that’s what will make me happy.”