Aussie billionaire seeks to build world fastest track car
AN Australian billionaire has chosen a remote corner of rural New Zealand to design, test and build the world's fastest track car.
IT tycoon David Dicker bought 1450-acre Wandle Downs, north of the tiny Canterbury township of Waiau, more than a decade ago.
His dream was to make a track-day car for mega-millionaires as fast, or faster, than a Formula 1 car.
Since then, the man behind Dicker Data Ltd, who shares his time between Waiau, his native Sydney, Jumeira Beach in Dubai, and Italy's Dolomites mountain range, has laid almost 3km of tarmac, at a cost of more than $2 million, for his private race track to develop prototypes.
He has also built a factory that houses a Ferrari 458 Challenge car, Lamborghinis, Porsches and a GP2 Series single-seater race car.
It also features an airport-style control tower, satellite dishes, an industrial automotive robot, two autoclaves for making carbon fibre parts, 3D printers, high-tech milling lathes and other professional motorsport equipment.
Dicker, 62, gave the Herald on Sunday a private tour of his impressive development. "This is a vanity project," he said.
"I've wanted to build my own car since I was 20. But it's really expensive. You need to make your money first. But now I can do it. "
He offered a sneak peak at the concept designs for the single-seater he calls the F Zero , produced by one of his companies, Rodin Cars Ltd. "It's a Formula One car with fenders," Dicker said.
It will be lightweight - around 600kg - and largely made with carbon fibre. A Chinese-made carbon fibre monocoque, or driver's cockpit, has been delivered to the Waiau factory.
Dicker hopes to be ready to test the vehicle in Abu Dhabi around November. With a vague price-tag of $650,000-$1.2m, the car will not be street legal, or certified to race.
"It's not a racing car, it's a track car. That's a big difference. It's not regulated by anyone," Dicker said.
Asked who will buy it, he replied: "Rich guys, obviously, who want to go to a track in something quicker than anyone else has."
Dicker designed the car and engineers are now realising his vision. But there's no doubt who is in charge.
Dicker, whose hardware distribution company Dicker Data surpassed a billion dollars in sales last year, chose New Zealand to pursue his dream instead of Australia because he felt his homeland was "hopelessly restrictive".
"The red tape is getting worse here [in New Zealand] but it's still way, way better than Australia."
Hurunui District Council approved resource consent on the basis the track was for private testing of "prototype motor vehicles developed on the site". Public events are not permitted.
Most of the undulating, sealed track runs below a terrace and cannot be seen from the road. Council planners ruled there would be "no risk of adverse effects" on neighbours, with the nearest house more than 1km away. Any noise from the high-powered cars will have to meet district plan limits.
Dicker spends four to five months year at the property, which is owned by his second wife, Delwyn Loris Dicker, and has a capital value of $3.2m. When there, he lives in a weathered and basic farmhouse but plans to build luxury accommodation.
Last year, Dicker approached Canterbury University's Motorsport division, which competes in the international Formula SAE motor racing. He recruited three students who started work at the factory this week in what they see as a "dream job".
With the potential to be quicker than a Formula 1 car, and top speeds of over 300km/h, the car will be "incredibly difficult to drive anywhere near top speed", even with its electronic aids.
Aiming to produce such a fast track car is "not as ambitious as you would think", said Dicker, who will do much of the fledgling car's testing.
"The Formula 1 guys are so heavily limited these days."
Dicker needs to manufacture at least 10 cars a year to make the venture viable.
He wants to produce 30-40 cars annually, and eventually to release a road car version.
Although he says it's a commercial venture, all profits will be poured back into the development of the cars.
"I'm not here to make money. I'm doing it for myself."
Asked how much his project has cost so far, he smiled: "No idea. You'd have to ask my accountant."