A world record attempt of the largest-ever recorded gathering of Mazda MX-5s, requiring more than 1600 cars to be in California next month, is being organised from Nelson.
The driving force behind the mission is Rick Weldon, who moved from San Francisco to Nelson four years ago. A former racing car driver and Mazda team manager, he likes to win and is confident of pulling off the record.
The idea is it will be achieved at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey where Mazda will celebrate its 25th anniversary of the MX-5 as the new 2016 model will be unveiled to the public.
Weldon was asked to organise the event after previous success stemming from the 20th anniversary in 2009 when 100 were expected but more than 500 showed.
This time, to break the previous record of 1600 cars set in Japan, he plans to ensure 1700 cars are independently checked in four hours.
Doing that from Nelson hasn't daunted Weldon.
He and his wife Melissa shortlisted New Zealand as the place they wanted to move to after 25 years in San Francisco and made four trips before settling in Nelson, picked for lifestyle reason.
He is operations manager at Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours but has taken six months leave to devote his time to organising the event.
He's also a business mentor on the Nelson Tasman Trust and on the board for the NZ Central Motorsport and Adventure Park to be developed south of Nelson. Melissa is business development manager at the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency.
He likes that he can work on his laptop with a view of Haulashore Island while he skypes others around the world.
Their dining room has become "the war room", with one wall covered in post-it stickers as he plans the event. He has a trusty team of good people in the US he has run other events with who are helping to make it happen.
The most difficult factor is working with a 19-hour time difference, meaning he has meetings ranging from 5am to 1am.
He's been talking with MX-5 owners in Canada who will be driving in convoy to California, one who has already started his journey from Newfoundland, a group of 25 who will fly in from the Philippines, a manufacturer's representative in Japan and another couple coming from Brazil.
He sees the global reach as a perfect example of what the Gigatown Nelson campaign is trying to achieve in striving to win the competition to bring super-fast broadband to Nelson so that businesses can work globally.
"I have upgraded my broadband but still there are times when things get a little bit of a glitch, having that would enhance the quality.
"I have weekly planning meetings with top Mazda people in North America so sitting in on a meeting like that having good broadband is essential. We can do that but we could do even better."
Weldon has already shipped his car for the event and will fly out next week to oversee the final organisation. As of this week 1700 cars have been registered for the record attempt. "We are going to smash the record," he said.
He also has the interesting logistics to arrange of parking them on the raceway hill to form a pattern depicting MX-5 25 as well as hosting a barbecue for the 2400 people who have registered. There will be two track days, another barbecue evening and a chance to talk with the original eight-member team of concept people, designers and engineers who created the MX-5.
He believes the MX-5 has been popular because it is a fun sports car that's user friendly.
New Zealand MX-5 owners will celebrate the 25th anniversary at Hampton Downs, south of Auckland, on September 20.
- The Nelson Mail
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