By SHELLEY TOPP
A young Rangiora motorsport enthusiast is having a season to remember this year.
Hunter Rowland, aged 17, is second in the New Zealand Motorsport title championship, second in the South Island series with one round to go, first in the Canterbury Car Club Class 4 Circuit Championship with one round to go, and first in the Canterbury Car Club Youth Championship with one round to go.
He finished first in the Canterbury Car Club Class 4 Circuit Championship last year and has won the Canterbury Car Club Youth Championship for the last couple of years.
He began competing in the sport when he was only 8. His father, Paul Rowland, of Rangiora, said he leased a quarter midget (youth class) speedway car for Hunter that year because he was “a shy and reserved kid” and he thought speedway driving might bring him out of his shell.
“He was introduced to speedway by a very successful speedway driver named Kevin Clive, who leased us a car for Hunter’s first season so that he could give it a try,” Paul said.
Hunter loved it so much that the next season Paul bought him a “1/4 midget” from Auckland which he continued to race for the next five seasons until he outgrew it at 14.
“Like any kid, if they get to play with something like that they are going to enjoy themselves.”
Hunter is still low key and doesn’t like to talk too much about his achievements.
“But I think he does a pretty good job,’ Paul said.
This season, Hunter is driving a Mazda RX7 in the Pro 7 series. His favourite track is Ashburton Speedway, where he has had a lot of success.
However, he began racing closer to home at Ruapuna in Templeton, where Scott Dixon holds the race lap record of 1 minute 15.81 seconds.
Hunter has now driven on speedway tracks all around New Zealand, including Western Springs Speedway in Auckland and Riverside Speedway in Invercargill.
The former Shirley Boys’ High School student left school this year to start work at Sign Biz, a sign company in Christchurch with outlets in Auckland and Tauranga.
He has long-term plans to become an electrician.
“In the meantime, I think he wants to earn some money so he can buy an even faster car to race in,” Paul says.
Hunter is supported by his pit crew, consisting of Paul, Roger Low and a group of loyal sponsors, Hanham and Philp Contractors, Royce Clive Engineering, Lordship Engineering, Racing.org.nz, and Bridgestone Kaiapoi, which has backed him right from the start and been a “huge support”, Paul says.