Taupo: Series pre-race news

A1GP drivers have unique lesson in the haka and go jet boating Sepang, Malaysia -- A1GP World Cup of Motorsport gave its drivers a unique opportunity this morning to have a lesson in one of New Zealand's most famous cultural ceremonies the haka...

A1GP drivers have unique lesson in the haka and go jet boating

Sepang, Malaysia -- A1GP World Cup of Motorsport gave its drivers a unique opportunity this morning to have a lesson in one of New Zealand's most famous cultural ceremonies the haka -- a Maori traditional dance. This was in the build up to this weekend's A1GP Taupo, New Zealand.

Te Ori Paki, an accomplished orator of Maori culture and a very experienced performer of the haka, gave drivers from seven nations a rare opportunity to experience this lesson, after they were given a traditional Maori warrior welcome at the stunning Wairakei Terraces just outside Taupo.

Australia's John Martin, France's Loic Duval, Ireland's Adam Carroll and Niall Quinn, Lebanon's Daniel Morad and Jimmy Auby, Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy and Aaron Lim, Monaco's Clivio Piccione, the Netherlands' Dennis Retera, South Africa's Cristiano Morgado, Switzerland's Alexandre Imperatori and local New Zealand driver Chris van der Drift all had the chance to take part this morning.

Made internationally famous by the All Blacks rugby team as the challenge before every international game, the haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions.

The war haka, which had their own term, 'peruperu', were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess to intimidate the opposition. Today, the haka constitutes an integral part of formal or official welcome ceremonies for distinguished visitors or foreign dignitaries, serving to impart a sense of the importance of the occasion. Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and the poking out of the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. It is very rare for foreign visitors to be given a haka lesson, but A1GP was proud the organisers of today's event enjoyed sharing one of the major cultural icons of New Zealand with the international drivers.

"The haka that I was teaching the drivers is called a manawa wera," explained Te Ori. "It is specifically performed to get the juices flowing, to get the adrenaline going and the blood pumping! It talks about the thirst for battle (in this case on the racetrack) and challenges who ever has the passion and the will to bring all their strength to the battlefield so a champion can be found. It talks about how the dust will be raised, the earth will be scorched and only the strong will survive.

"Many battles take place throughout the world in many shapes and sizes, but for us as Maori we have traditional methods like haka to bring mind over matter, to make oneself unbeatable, to liken oneself to the Gods and to never back down from the pending challenge. I wanted the drivers to know that this is much more than a "scary looking dance" and that it's about calling on all your strength, unifying your forces, calling on your ancestors and eliminating fear. In short, 'getting into the zone' where failure is not an option." Te Ori Paki will be at Taupo Motorsport Park on Sunday performing the haka as part of the build up to the Feature race on Sunday. The haka he will be performing is designed to encourage the drivers to climb the mountain and do the best they can in the race.

A1 Team New Zealand's Chris van der Drift, who accepted the traditional gift of a native Silver Fern on behalf of the drivers, said: "I think most of the A1GP drivers didn't know what the haka was in the first place so its cool they got to see a bit of New Zealand culture. I did it back in school, but that was a while ago now so I had to remember how it went again. It was good to do it properly and have the right guys teach us how to do it. Its hard work though, you just have to remember everything step by step and try to keep in rhythm."

The haka lesson was followed by a trip to the mighty Huka Falls, another of Taupo's most talked about attractions, in a jet boat.

Situated right in the heart of the North Island the Hukafalls Jet offers a thrilling jet boat ride along the beautifully scenic Waikato River, lined with native bush, sheer rock cliff faces and natural hot springs.

The A1GP drivers were kitted out with life jackets for a thrilling ride, including 360o. spins, before reaching the spectacular Huka Falls. From the unique vantage point on the jet boat the drivers had the best water level view of Huka Falls, one of New Zealand's most visited natural attractions.

A1 Team Lebanon's Daniel Morad commented: "I thought learning the haka was really good. It's nice when we come to countries and learn about the different cultures. At the end it got pretty tough because there were so many different steps, so I was just following everyone else but when they were making mistakes I'd do the same. If we had more time to get all the steps we could put more passion into it and really see what its like to be a Moari.

"The Hukafalls Jet was really exciting, probably more so than driving the A1GP car as you have branches coming at you and you get pretty close to them."

A1 Team Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy said: "It's a good experience learning other cultures and it was very different. A1GP is not just about racing but about learning about other cultures and meeting new people and its beautiful here."

A1 Team Ireland's Adam Carroll said: "I didn't really know what to expect with the haka. It's very interesting to learn what it's all about and you can understand and appreciate why they do it. You can imagine them all doing it before going to war, it would be quite intimidating.

"The Hukafalls Jet was really good fun and it was added excitement with a helicopter filming only a few feet above our heads. If anyone comes here they have to come and do this."

A1GP heads to Taupo Motorsport Park in New Zealand for round four of the 2008/09 season this weekend, 23 -- 25 January.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Adam Carroll , Clivio Piccione , Fairuz Fauzy , Loic Duval , Dennis Retera , Cristiano Morgado , Daniel Morad , Chris van der Drift , Niall Quinn , John Martin , Aaron Lim , Jimmy Auby