“It’s a weapon to drive”

Wallace Race Team owner and driver Michael Wallace with his father and team technical engineer Colin Wallace and his 1975 Chevrolet Monza.

In a series, motoring reporter Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes talking with Dunedin motorsport enthusiasts about their passion for their form of racing.

Five minutes with Wallace Race Team owner and driver Michael Wallace

Q: When did you get into motorsport?

With the help of my dad, I won 28 titles racing go karts including an Australian championship. We were pretty successful in karts and then we moved to the New Zealand V8 series and ran that for about 10 years in a Holden Commodore. We got second in a couple of rounds and did pretty well. I had a break for about eight years to support my daughters in their horse-riding and then me and my dad got itchy feet again so Dad built this car, a 1975 Chevy Monza, which has twice the horsepower of the Commodore, about 800-odd horsepower.

Q: What do you race it in?

Central Muscle Cars and Mainland Muscle Cars _ race series for care from the 1960s and 1970s _ that cool era. We are leading the Mainland series after winning the first round at Ruapuna in Christchurch last month.

Q: Is the Monza factory standard?

No – it was completely stripped and refabricated with the latest and greatest of suspension, brakes and all that. It has a Nascar engine, gearbox, drive shafts and diffs in it very, very good gear. It’s the best you can buy. Although it’s an old car it’s hi-tech with good gear.

The interior of Michael Wallace’s Monza.

Q: What sort of engine does it have?

It’s 410 cubic inch, 7-litre, at the rear wheels it produces 760 horsepower it’s got plenty of power. At Teretonga Park [near Invercargill earlier this year] it reached 274kmh at the end of the straight and at Bathurst [at Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit in New South Wales in October this year] it reached 296kmh down the straight. It didn’t quite break the 300 mark.

The Nascar engine in the Monza.

Q: Is reaching 300kmh on the bucket list?

broken the 300 because three other Kiwi cars did at Bathurst. We didn’t get the car’s set-up right until the last race. Once we got it right I gained a lot more confidence in the car and I think we could have got 300 out of it. If we go back to Australia I think we would straights aren’t long enough.

Q: What’s it like to drive?

It’s a weapon to drive. It’s a nice car to drive but if you want to race it you have to be 110% on your game because it will kick your arse if you don’t focus. You can’t make a mistake in it not at those speeds.