Up to Speed: The Roycroft Years in New Zealand Racing, by Scott Thomson (Steele Roberts):
New Zealand motorsport legend Chris Amon once described Ron Roycroft leading the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1957 as one of the five most significant events that helped shape motor racing in this country.
The Depression, World War 2, lack of money and an equal lack of suitable cars were all obstacles that presented themselves to Roycoft but he still went on to win six national titles.
Roycroft took on all-comers — including experienced drivers from the United States, Australia and Europe.
Up To Speed focuses on the Roycroft years in New Zealand motor racing but it is more than the story of Roycroft’s time racing cars, it is the story of his entire life. It’s also a history of a hugely significant time in New Zealand racing, taking in all the races throughout the whole country that made the sport what it is today.
All the venues are there, including our own Teretonga.
Along with author Scott Thomson’s easy-to-read words, there are photos galore providing a timeline of what was an exciting time for the sport.
Roycroft lived his life at full speed but unlike a lot of racing drivers he lived to see old age, dying quietly in 2000.
MotorSport NZ — the sole authority appointed by the FIA to regulate motor sport in New Zealand — established the Motorsport Wall of Fame, which was established in 1994, as a permanent reminder of the achievements of past and present members.
Drivers honoured by this award include Amon, Hulme, McLaren, Possum Bourne, Rodger Freeth, Graham McRae, Rod and Steve Millen, Paul Radisich and Craig Baird.
In 1996, Roycroft was also honoured for his efforts. Motorsport NZ said of his induction: “A true all-round motorsports person, Ron Roycroft achieved success driving on sand, cinders, gravel and seal and collected over 200 awards in all types of speed events during a long career which started in 1933.”
He gave New Zealand one of its great motorsport moments in 1957 when he led the country’s own Grand Prix for 10 laps before retiring; the next year he placed third.
Roycroft retired from driving in 1963 but never lost his interest in the sport or his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge of cars.
New Zealand has produced some truly talented drivers over the years and all have had their path made easier by Roycroft’s groundwork.
Amon said of his 1957 effort: “He showed that day that Kiwis could compete with the tops from overseas, and in doing so opened the door through which people such as Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and I subsequently walked through.”