Craig Innes is the Managing Director of award-winning motor vehicle dealership, Mercedes-Benz North Shore. He owns the business with (South Island based) Bruce Miles of the Miles Motor Group. Under Craig’s leadership, Mercedes-Benz North Shore has been chosen as New Zealand’s Mercedes Benz retailer of the year for the past three years in a row – 2016, 2017 and 2018. They have also recently added Citroen and Peugeot brands to their North Shore stable. As well as running this successful business, Craig has a passion for motorsport. Channel Magazine’s Aidan Bennett caught up with him during August to find out more about his need for speed…
AIDAN BENNETT: When did you first take an interest in Motorsport and how did you get involved in the sport?
CRAIG INNES: My father used to race but retired around the time I was born. I always remember being fascinated watching Bathurst on TV with him as a young child but when I was eight years old he took me to Pukekohe to watch what was the second round (after Wellington) of the Nissan Mobil 500 Series. I was amazed at what I saw and didn’t leave my seat all day – not even to get lunch! I decided then that I wanted to do this one day. At that point we didn’t know Kart Racing existed, but when I was 11 we went to the Hamilton Kart Club to watch a family friend Marc Lawrence race. It took me about six months after that to convince Mum and Dad to let me have a go at Karting and they purchased a Kart for my 12th birthday.
AB: What competitive driving have you done and what vehicles do you compete in these days?
CI: I raced Karts until my early 20s and did a little bit of touring car racing in a Nissan Sentra GT. With a very generous payment scheme to help me get started I purchased a Formula Ford from Kenny Smith in 2005 which is what really got me going. Since then I have raced in a number of cars and classes, all of which have either been Touring or GT Cars. Most recently I have competed in endurance racing mainly in Porsches, Seats and Ferraris. The factory-built race cars like these are very well suited for endurance racing.
AB: What is the best motor racing vehicle you have ever driven?
CI: That would be a car that we have done a lot of endurance racing in – a 2012 Ferrari 458 Challenge. It is owned by Wellington businessman Tim O’Connor and I have been lucky enough to be racing it since it was new.
AB: What motorsport events have you been to around the world (as a competitor), and do you have a favourite?
CI: My favourite track to race on is Phillip Island (near Melbourne, Victoria) in Australia. It is so smooth, fast and flowing. Watching the Moto GP bikes race there is always next level as having driven there you really appreciate what those guys can do.
AB: What motorsport events have you been to around the world (as a spectator), and do you have a favourite?
CI: Last year I went to the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone (England) and that was my favourite. The current F1 cars are so fast that TV does not do them justice. I also really enjoyed watching a Nascar Race in Kansas (Missouri, USA). That is a very different event to Formula 1 but the Americans do know how to put on a show.
AB: Do members of your family share your passion for motorsport?
CI: Dad obviously raced but didn’t want me to do the same which I never understood until now that I have a son of my own. He stayed away to start with, but then got involved and helped to make sure that I was able to get into the best teams or cars that were available to me which was very beneficial. He is a very good supporter who comes to every event I am in. My mother really loves it and goes to all the events I am racing in and many others as well. Our family has made some really strong friendships through motorsport.
AB: Ever had a bad accident while competing?
CI: I have bent up a few cars in my time but we have always had good people in our teams that have got them ready for the next race or event.
AB: Is electric vehicle racing motorsport, and will this grow in the future?
CI: I have started watching Formula E on TV because Mitch (Evans) is in it and he goes well which makes it more exciting. With Brendon (Hartley) joining next year it will be even better from a Kiwi perspective. I have no special knowledge of it other than what I see on TV, but it seems like very good racing with a younger fan base than traditional motorsport so I think it will keep growing in the future and quite rapidly.
AB: Complete the following… If I was given one wish related to motorsport, to complete in an event, drive a certain car or on a certain race track, that wish would be…
CI: … to have raced a V8 Supercar at Bathurst as this is what I grew up watching. I have had the opportunity to drive a V8 Supercar so I am very lucky in that respect but to do that race would have been amazing.