WSR founder and Team Principal Dick Bennetts have been honoured in his homeland by being inducted onto MotorSport New Zealand’s Wall of Fame.
The announcement came at MotorSport New Zealand’s annual awards event in Wellington on Saturday night.
Unable to attend in person, Dick’s membership was accepted on his behalf by a friend and fellow Wall-of-Famer David Oxton – with whom he came to the UK for what was intended to be two years only – and by his brother Norman.
He joins a long list of New Zealand motorsport legends such as Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Chris Amon, Scott Dixon and Brendon Hartley on the Wall of Fame and is one of only a handful of non-drivers to be honoured.
Born and raised in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island in 1947, Dick developed a love of motorsport from an early age and, after accompanying Oxton to the UK in 1972, began to develop a reputation for engineering excellence and stayed put.
After working for March Engineering and Fred Opert Racing, Dick joined Ron Dennis’ Project 4 operation in 1978 and engineered Niki Lauda to the BMW M1 Procar title in ’79 and Stefan Johansson to the British Formula 3 crown the following season.
Setting up West Surrey Racing in early 1981 to run Jonathan Palmer; racing protégé of West Surrey Engineering boss Mike Cox, Dick oversaw an incredible debut race win and championship victory for the team.
It was the first of five British titles to be won by WSR; Ayrton Senna, Mauricio Gugelmin, Mika Hakkinen and Rubens Barrichello also triumphing.
Two Macau GP wins and several one-off victories in Germany, Italy and Japan were also achieved as well as 56 British F3 victories – a record at the point at which the team exited the series at the end of 1995.
Dick moved WSR into the British Touring Car Championship in 1996; beginning an ultra-successful period for the team that has brought them Manufacturer status with Ford, Honda, MG/Rover and, since 2017, BMW.
In that time, a host of top-level drivers, including Paul Radisich, Craig Baird, Nigel Mansell, Tom Kristensen, Andy Priaulx and Colin Turkington have climbed behind the wheel of WSR-run cars and achieved great success.
In total, WSR has won three BTCC Drivers’ titles, four Teams’ crowns and three Manufacturers’ championships; each one coming in the past decade with BMWs, plus 85 victories, 280 podiums and a race win in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
WSR have also undertaken extensive motorsport and motoring research and development programmes for a variety of clients and have also used their circuit-design consultancy to assist with the creation of the Dubai Autodrome and Hampton Downs, plus the redevelopment of Silverstone’s Formula 1 circuit.
Earlier this year Dick was inducted as a founding member of the New Zealand International Grand Prix Legends’ Club while WSR was named Race Team of the Year by globally-renowned industry publication Professional Motorsport World.
Now 71; Dick shows no signs of slowing down. The 2018 season was one of WSR’s best ever as the team, based in Sunbury-on-Thames, won the BTCC Drivers’, Teams’ and Manufacturers’ titles, and they have started 2019 with five wins from nine races with a brand-new BMW 330i M Sport touring car designed and built over the winter.
Dick Bennetts, WSR Team Principal, said: “I feel incredibly humbled to be inducted onto the MotorSport New Zealand Wall of Fame. For a country of fewer than five million people, my homeland has made an incredible contribution to global motorsport through racing folk like Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Chris Amon, Scott Dixon and my dear friend David Oxton and I feel honoured to even have my name spoken in the same sentence as these guys. While the WSR success story has been UK-based, I am a proud New Zealander and it’s the skills and ingenuity I learnt and developed as a young engineer there that have been the catalyst to everything that has followed over the past 45 years. It’s an extremely proud moment and is a tribute to everyone that’s played a part in WSR’s successes and those that came before.”