One of the fastest growing classes in the sport is actually also the one pumping fresh new life into off-road racing.
The Kiwitruck category has been a fastgrowing success story ever since Richard Crabb first kicked the idea around on his farmlet at Albany. He started with a tiny wee kart but quickly got onto the current trucks, establishing a two-tier category with trucks featuring smaller engines with ‘soft’ transmissions and a step-up version with a bigger engine and clutch-type gear transmission.
That’s similar to the world of karting, which has produced every Formula One world champion in the past 20 years.
And the Kiwitruck category is important to off-road racing for the same reasons. It is bringing in kids at a very tender age, giving them racing experience in appropriate machinery and setting them on the path up into the regular classes.
Kiwitrucks have been a separate category at national championship level for several years now, making the sport a true family affair.
Buckley Racing built trucks locally at the start, but the big push was to import ready-built racers, especially as our currency strengthened against the US dollar. American trucks were ready to race, sorted, out of the box. Kids want to drive, and the imported trucks gave them plenty of seat time.
There must be close to 30 Kiwitrucks in New Zealand now. That’s serious stuff. To date, most of the Kiwitruck interest has been based in the North Island, though the Storer girls have been mainstays here in Christchurch.
And when the kids turn 15 they transition out to other classes, UTVs or class five being the most competitive steps up out of the Kiwitrucks.
Things are about to take another major leap forward with the confirmation that Neville ‘ Max’ Smith is selling Kiwi-spec wee trucks with blueprinted engines featuring billet conrods and other goodies – real race stuff. The new trucks will be more stable – and thus quicker – because they make the most of the rules around width/ track and wheelbase.
Priced turn-key at $ 16,000 plus GST, the first two went out to new owners just before Christmas.
Max has a lot going on at the moment. He was the engineer behind the Cougar Race Cars brand, the most successful off-road race cars in the history of the sport in this country. Now though he has seen the light and has just completed his first ProLite for long-time racer Hans Gurau. It’s visible on his Facebook page and all the pics show Max’s painstaking attention to detail and craftsmanship has been applied to the new venture.
He’s very open about what got him interested in silhouette race trucks and the ProLite design philosophy. Max saw the debut of our GT Radial Tyres truck at the 2011 Taupo 1000 – out of the box and into the toughest offroad race in the country. Light weight, good handling, excellent centre of gravity and inertial characteristics from a mid-centre four cylinder engine – and everything so easy to work on.
So now the Gurau truck is finished, out the door, and coming soon to a championship near you.
What’s next at Cougar? A full- on Kiwi ProLite kitset, laser cut tubes and panels delivered at a very reasonable cost to your door, ready to tack, weld, plumb and finish. The kitset uses mild steel for the roll cage to keep costs down. Light, fast, affordable. And adding to the numbers of class eight ProLites in the championship next year.
When the GT truck made i ts debut there was a lot of talk about establishing a sub- class category for kids – so when they exit Kiwitruck at, say, 15 years old they can step up into a full- size race truck. A controlled drivetrain would keep costs down by using a normally aspirated 1.6- litre four cylinder and the trans could be a stock automatic to keep the truck reliable and the transition simple.
That wouldn’t add another class to the championship – rather, these trucks would run in class eight and allow families to either trade up and out when the time is right or simply upgrade to the proven V8/ Turbo 400 combination many are now using.
Harry Hodgson was just pipped at the post for the title.
2016 Kiwitruck class champion Brooklyn Morgan-Horan.