Speed and Custom
LEGEND OF SPEED: RACING RAY
Car culture has been part of the BurgerFuel DNA, since ’95 and our Speed & Custom programme pays homage to that heritage and represents our undying passion for chrome and burning rubber.
In celebration of Speed & Custom month, we’ve been chatting to some like-minded friends of the fuel who personify what it means it be ‘full throttle’.
We can’t think of anyone more full throttle than one of New Zealand’s ‘Legends of Speed’, Ray Williams, aka ‘Racing Ray’ (that’s “Rrrrrrracing Ray!” must be said with enthusiasm and a roll of the tongue).
Let's learn more about Racing Ray!
With a career in motorsport spanning 50 years and numerous successes in local and international motorsport competition, the ‘Legend of Speed’ title couldn’t sum Ray up better.
Ray has broken multiple land speed records, achieving (and still holding) eight national land speed records in ’96, covering both the outright and road car categories in his beloved Porsche 930.
Ray was first introduced to us through Downforce Training and Events, an incredible Kiwi company that specialises in world class driver training and events - from track driving, safety focused defensive driving, road tours to SUV off-road winter driving on snow and ice.
Ray brings his extensive knowledge and expertise in motor racing as an instructor for Downforce. And it was the twinkle in his eye and endearing charisma that made us want to learn more about his racing journey across five decades.
Born and bred in Auckland and one of five 'rascal' boys, Ray was the middle child and from a very early age, always loved to get up to mischief and go fast. His father was in the military and a very influential figure, being a home mechanic and a bit of a rascal himself. There wasn’t a lot of money to go around, but living in an army home, meant his Dad always had cars. Plus, his Dad liked to get up to mischief and go fast too (or “a bit quick”, as Ray puts it).
Ray hooned around on a motor scooter before being of legal driving age, getting his motor scooter licence and drivers licence simultaneously on the way to school on his 15th birthday. The local cop was very relaxed about it all, joking that he needed some practice, handing him his license and sending him on his way. Little did he know, that same kid would be breaking land speed records in no time.
Throughout our chat, Ray refers to the expense of having a passion in motorsport and humble beginnings meant that Ray couldn’t race from a young age. In the late 60’s he joined a car club and tried his hand at racing road cars on the track. Turns out he was pretty good from the outset, winning his first championship in a road car in ’73. He self-funded his career through his own businesses and had some amazing sponsors, such as CRC and Pit Stop, that supported him along the way.
And the rest is history. He has had the pleasure of driving many machines across many different disciplines of motorsport such as Formula 5000 and Indycar race cars, blazing a trail and setting records with his innate ability to adapt to new cars and driving environments. He prefers four wheels to two (he didn’t think he’d live a long life had he pursued motorbike racing, given his ‘crazy’ riding style from a young age) ,and racetracks as opposed to rally tracks.
Ray has a natural affinity with handling road cars at speed. His intuitive driving style is more suited to speed circuits, and he excels in wet conditions. Being a fast learner and adapting quickly to tracks he didn’t know, gave him an exceptional competitive advantage when coming up in the sport.
He took inspiration from the likes of NZ racing driver, Denny Hulme, British Formula 1 racing driver, Stirling Moss, and the legendary, Bruce McLaren, NZ car designer, driver, engineer, and inventor – and he had the honour of meeting all three.
With so many achievements under his belt, it’s hard for Ray to pinpoint a career highlight to date but settles on winning the overall Bridgestone Porsche Series Championship in ’90, being rewarded with a trip to England to compete in some Porsche races - then subsequently taking out the inaugural Bill Taylor Memorial Trophy race at Oulton Park. The pride was evident when he recounts the experience racing in a borrowed Porsche, again, on a track he didn’t know.
With a ’63 Porsche 356, ’91 Porsche 911 Carrera and a brand-new Ford Mustang sitting in his garage, not to mention his 1970 Ford Capri Perana (“a Ford engine with 550 HP engine stuck in a little old Capri body – and it’s as FAST as anything!” he says) which he still races, but his all-time favourite car recently sold to the Bill Richardson Transport World Museum, Invercargill, the iconic Porsche 930, ‘Ivory Beast from Bahrain’. Purchased from Colin Giltrap in ’88, Ray promised Giltrap, “I’ll leave your name on the car and watch me win in it”. Three days later he won his first Bridgestone Porsche round at Pukekohe racetrack and went on to win over 155 races in that same road car throughout his career.
His dream race track? German Grand Prix racetrack Nürburgring, but ironically Ray’s favourite track to race is good old Pukekohe Park Raceway - the first track he ever raced on, as well as the last he competitively raced on in his Capri.
He lights up when talking about his work with Downforce. Working with Tim and the team of professional driving instructors for the last 10 years has been a rewarding role for Ray.
“I love Downforce. I can’t say enough about them. I love giving back and teaching people, sharing the information I have. The Downforce team approach everything with such professionalism and safety is first and foremost. Always”.
“We look after our drivers, our customers, and show them what the cars can do. We teach them about the grip and the cars ability before showing them how to drive it at speed. I think I have a gift sitting in that passenger seat. I like to egg them on too! Brake later! Brake harder!”.
Ray, now a doting grandfather of 4, has plenty of stories to share with his family. When asked if any of his children wanted to follow in his footsteps, it’s clear the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Ray’s son, who shares his passion for motorsport. But Dad made it very clear early on that there didn’t need to be another race car driver in the family. “I don’t want you to race”, Ray told his son, “I’m allowed to die, but you’re not”. His words were firm and heeded, and his son now has a successful career in Formula 1, running the Red Bull simulators.
Ray and Wife, Katy (his greatest fan and supporter) at Whenuapai celebrating the 100th race victory for the Porsche 930
Cheers “Rrrrrrracing Ray’ (again, must be said with a roll of the tongue), an absolute pleasure to chat to an absolute legend.