Race4Life Track Day Hampton Downs 2019

Every year for the past 12 years, the Race4Life Charitable Trust has organised a track day at Hampton Downs for palliative care patients who live in Auckland and Waikato. Simpson Western is an enthusiastic supporter of Race4Life and on Tuesday 12th March 2019, Peter Hall, Russell Weir, Julia Tillett and Tom Sanders travelled to Hampton Downs to take part in the event. Here is Tom’s account of the day.


At 10:00am Peter, Russell, Julia and I arrived at Hampton Downs. This was our first Race4Life Track Day and we were unsure what to expect. The car park was full of all kinds of luxury, sports and vintage cars. We paused for a photo with a Ferrari as the patients and their families climbed out of buses and filed into one of Hampton Downs' club rooms. There were hugs and laughter all around as friends welcomed each other.

We entered the club room and were greeted by the event’s organiser, Viv James. Viv knew everyone by name and looked totally at home in the controlled chaos. One by one she took Peter, Russell, Julia and I by the arm and introduced us to the family we would be spending the day with.   

I couldn’t help but feel incredibly nervous to be introducing myself to total strangers; I did not want to impose on their special day. I need not have worried. Viv introduced me to an elderly lady called Yoke Yue and her son Damien, who was a few years older than me. We hit it off immediately.

“This is my third year." Yoke said with a big grin. "I haven’t kicked the bucket yet!”

We chatted away over morning tea. She told me how proud she had felt at Damien’s graduation ceremony and how well he was doing in his new job. “He started at the bottom, you know.” She said. “Now look at him.”

Morning tea finished and the families left the club room. Yoke marched ahead, the fact she needed crutches to help her walk was not slowing her down today. Damien and I just about had to jog to keep up. At the track, the three of us donned crash helmets and were allocated a car each. I ducked into a vintage Porsche 911 and a nice bloke in a high vis shirt helped me with the belt buckle. My driver’s name was Eddie and he asked how fast I wanted to go. As fast as possible, I told him.

Eddie bombed down the straights and took the corners hard. I was sure we were going to spin out, but Eddie knew exactly what his Porsche could handle. From the quick words we were able to share between gear changes, I learned that Eddie was a man who loved his Porsche and was thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with so many deserving people.

We pulled into the pit lane in time to see Yoke getting out of her car. I asked her if she had enjoyed it. “Not fast enough” she declared mischievously.

Next, Yoke organised three motorcycles for us. The riders were clad in black denim jeans and leather jackets. If it hadn’t been for the big smiles on their faces, I would have assumed that touching their bikes would have earned me a black eye. Yoke jumped on the back of a Harley Davidson like she had ridden one all her life. Damien and I perched on the back of our bikes and clung on for dear life.

We rolled on off Hampton Downs like a thunder storm on wheels. A group of road workers couldn’t help but down their tools and look on in amusement as three staunch bikers roared past with an elderly lady and two chaps wearing shorts and jandals perched on the back of their bikes.

Back at Hampton Downs, there was no time to recover because Yoke wanted to go for a ride in the helicopter. Given that my knees were still knocking from the bike ride, I was more than happy to stand back and watch Yoke and Damien be whizzed off the tarmac for a joy ride in the sky.

Once safely back on the ground, Yoke said the last thing she wanted to do was go for a ride in the fire truck. She was allowed to sit in the front seat and blast the sirens to her heart’s content. She introduced Damien and I to the fire fighters. “This is my son, Damien.” She said. “And this is my second son, Tom.”

At 3:00pm I walked her and Damien back to their bus. I could not help but feel absolutely inspired by Yoke's sense of fun and was extremely grateful to have shared such an awesome day with her and her son. We said our goodbyes and promised to do it all again next year.

The patients and their families had gone home and I met up with Peter, Russell and Julia for a beer and a slice of pizza with the other supporters. We swapped stories and shared photos. Finally, all that was left to do was give Viv James a big hug and thank her for what had been an incredible and inspiring day.

If you would like to learn more about the Race4Life Charitable Trust, you can visit their website at https://race4life.org.nz/