He's done it all, but now Manukau-based champion of champions Tony McCall is done with racing He's done it all, but now Manukau-based champion of champions Tony McCall is done with racing CREDIT: Mark Baker

"So long guys": offroad racing's bad boy takes the flag

Wednesday 22 June 2022, 9:23AM
By Mark Baker

After more than thirty years at the top, multiple champion Tony McCall has stepped away from New Zealand offroad racing.

It is a bittersweet moment for the most successful driver in the history of New Zealand dirt sport, but he says he is ‘done with it’.

Though McCall’s love of – and passion for – offroad racing remains, he says he has become a target for other drivers and in some cases vengeful officials.

Always controversial, and always fast, McCall has won national class titles, national championships and events without number. He has so many trophies his wife Tarren long ago banished them to the McCall ‘man-cave’.

“The tin-ware took way too much time to keep dusted and polished so the trophies are filling a wall in the garage these days.”

The unlimited class single-seater he designed and built with Scott Buckley has been sold to returning racer Cody Hata lock stock and barrel, with McCall agreeing to help Hata get up to speed in the Chevrolet V8 powered race car.

Hata ran a devastatingly quick Subaru-powered Jimco in the early 2000s and is a fast and spectacular racer in his own right.

“Cody has been away from the sport, but has stayed ‘hot’ in speedway so he’ll get up to speed pretty quickly. And that car is definitely the fastest in the sport. No exceptions.”

Interest in buying the car came from both islands but McCall had a strong preference for Hata, wanting to see a driver in the vehicle who could quickly master its sheer power and capability.

“To pick up a saying from the rugby fraternity, this ain’t a game of tiddlywinks.”

The McCall motorsport story started with the smallest cars in the sport – which later become class Seven – racing the little VW-engined car against some of the sport’s early legends.

“We raced down at Meremere in those days, formats were like today’s short course events and a lot of the drivers came across from speedway. There were a few bumps and grazes for some of the egos but it was great fun racing against my speedway heroes.”

Fast-forward a decade and McCall was the sport’s bad boy in class one, banging wheels with the established stars and winning races against the likes of Ian Foster at the New Zealand Offroad Grand Prix, raced on a tiny but challenging course in Te Atatu in front of crowds of 4,500 and more.

“Winning races at the Grand Prix meant something. The racing was televised, the grids were massive, and drivers came from all over the North Island to be part of that show.”

With the move away from racing, McCall is now pouring his energy into re-creating the ‘sizzle’ of the Grand Prix, this time at the Counties Manukau club’s new track in Colin Dale Park.

“We’re pushing ahead with a one-day sudden death race event that will be the successor to those Grand Prix weekends. It’s been confirmed as a national title and will be the only televised offroad racing this year, going out to a quarter of a million Kiwi race fans on free to air TV.”

The new event will be run on a format inspired by speedway and the original stadium race series in the USA, with heats for race car classes, a ‘semi-main and then finals and a feature race.

“The weekend will be spectacular and exciting and it’s going to be as much fun for drivers and the crowd – just like the Grand Prix in the 1990s.”

The 2022 New Zealand Offroad Grand Prix will be held on 19 November at the Counties-Manukau International Offroad Stadium Track in Colin Dale Park.