Taylor going places fast
He drives like the wind, makes the podium a lot and other drivers know he’s in the race.
Sprint car driver Stephen Taylor, from Whitby, is just 18, but is a force to be reckoned with on the track.
He won the North Island sprint car championship at Baypark, Mt Maunganui, in February and the Wellington champs at Te Marua in March, against much older, more experienced drivers.
At Te Marua he shaved 0.05s off the longstanding lap record.
Taylor attended just 11 meetings last summer, getting podiums in half of his heat and feature races. It was another year on a steep learning curve and he loved every minute.
‘‘I’m really happy with what I achieved this season,’’ he said.
‘‘Our team [overseen by his father, Ian] would have liked to have gone to more meets, but it comes down to funding.
‘‘It’s an expensive sport – each crunch is easily $1000 damage and if an engine blows or you have a big crash then it could be anything up to $15,000. Thinking about it sometimes makes me feel ill.’’
As can happen with teenagers, Taylor said adrenaline could sometimes get the better of him in the middle of a race and that it cost him sometimes.
‘‘I’m tested a lot [in races] because I’m young and some of the other drivers like to see what I can do and how I handle situations.
‘‘Some of the drivers see me as some hairy-legged boy and that’s just one of those things.
‘‘ Sometimes I need to fight the adrenaline away and look at the bigger picture. I’m getting better at it.’’
He treasures his two big titles from the summer and will take confidence into the winter break.
The two cars he races will be stripped by the team and rebuilt, repainted and prepared for when racing resumes in October.
Taylor is hoping for more sponsors so he can compete in more races.
He said his goal was to race profession- ally in the United States. I’m passionate about driving, have been since I was a little kid.
‘‘I believe in myself and know there will be good times and bad, but I want to build relationships with people and see where it takes me. Nascar would be the ultimate – it’s the sort of thing you dream about.’’
Need for speed: Porirua’s Stephen Taylor in action during the last meet of the season, on April 26 at Baypark Speedway.