Dirt Na­tion


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.

Ex­cit­ing times!

Harry Hodg­son was just pipped at the post for the ti­tle.

2016 Ki­witruck class cham­pion Brook­lyn Mor­gan-Ho­ran.

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