Street sprints draw young guns

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IN THE BLOOD: Sons and their fathers (from left) Olly and Alan Mackenzie, Lachlan and James Storey, Ben Hoskins-McLaren and Donn McLaren and, front, Ryan and Michael Gallagher are competing in this year's Ashburton Street Sprints.
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Young speedsters Ryan Gallagher, Lachlan Storey and Olly Mackenzie are in the starting line up of this year’s Ashburton Street Sprints.

The trio, all Ashburton Car Club members, are first-time entrants and will compete against their fathers and fellow car club members, Michael, James and Alan, respectively.

It will also Alan’s first time competing.

There are six father-son combinations among the 65 drivers vying for podium finishes in the April 27 and 28 event. The others are Donn McLaren and son Ben, Gary Cook and son Tim, and Shane Stocker and son Callum.

There are also three couples competing, two brothers and two cousins.

Ryan, 13, a go kart national champion, has been racing since he was five.

He has had four New Zealand titles in go kart and grass kart racing over the years and was keen to get his MotorSport licence once he came of age.

He drives quarter midgets at Ashburton Speedway, and will use this year’s street sprints to clock up some car racing experience.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages,” Ryan said.

He will drive the same Mazda RX8 as his dad, Michael, a seasoned racing driver and also the 2021/2022 Osca series national champion, who has competed in at least 15 street sprints.

Michael usually finishes in the top 10 of the event. but this year is racing a different car; a Mazda RX8. The car is being built in time for next season’s Mazda RX8 Racing Series.

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“In the street sprints I’ve been the fastest two-wheel drive car. I’ve been in the top five before, it’s pretty hard to win it in a two-wheel drive car, but it’s more about going there,” he laughed.

“It’s a great local event to have a bit of fun with. It’s always been well run and well received by everyone.”

James Storey agrees. He has done plenty of car and circuit racing but, of late, has focused on club sport and encouraging youngsters into the sport.

He has competed for fun in the street sprints for seven years driving a Mitsubishi EVO. This year he is driving his 1975 Mini Clubman.

‘‘Each year’s got better, last year was a personal best, got into the top 32, I would love to have a car that was capable of winning it one day,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s just a great event where you get 65 people who are all like-minded.

‘‘It’s kind of a tricky track but it’s nice and flowing. It’s just a real good event.’’

Lachlan Storey, 15, tried karting at scouts once, but it wasn’t until years later he took up motorkhana driving a three-litre automatic Subaru.

It has led to competing at interclub events, the most recent a motorkhana at Waiho Forks, Waimate.

He plans to take up track racing in the future and thought entering this year’s Ashburton Street Sprints would be a good step towards his long term goal of GT racing.

He will be driving a Toyota Corolla FXGT.

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Olly Mackenzie, 27, of Timaru only started motorsport about three years ago but has dived in boots-and-all competing in the likes of motorkhana, sealed autocross, and gravel sprints events.

He has finally entered the street sprints, along with his dad, Alan, also of Timaru.

“I should have done it last year. It just seems like a great, fun event,” Olly said.

He will be driving a 1984 BMW E30-329.

“I’ve had it for a couple of years in the shed now, and it’s just been out of the shed for the last four months.”

Alan was following in Olly’s wheel tracks in taking up motorsport.

‘‘This is new to me. I’ve always been a lunatic on the gravel, since I was a kid (in Invercargill), since I could drive.

“I’ve built a car – a Mark II Escort – it’s taken me two years to build it, and a lot of money. It was a nana car,” he said.

It had its first run in the car club’s autocross at Wakanui recently and made an appearance on Ashburton TV, much to Alan’s delight.

“It’s got a two and a half litre Ford Duratec (engine) in it … it still goes pretty good.”

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Fellow club member Ben Hoskins-McLaren, 26, is aiming for a top eight finish when he competes this year.

It will be his third time at the street sprints. He gratefully uses Darcy Prendergast’s Semog crosscar. It has a GSXR 750 road bike motor.

“I do a lot of go karting, not so much car stuff,” he said.

He has won a few grass karting national championships in the past 12 years; most recently the current super kart grade national championship.

This year he is aiming to get a top eight placing in the street sprints.

“A top eight would be great, everybody else is getting faster and faster so it’s going to be harder and harder to keep up with them in the crosskart.”

Ben’s dad, veteran racer Donn McLaren – also a club member – started racing in 1982 with rallying, rally sprints and car club events.

He has competed at every street sprint event since it first started.

He drives a Mark I Escort with a Mazda rotary motor.

It’s noisy.

His best placing was a third in the early days, followed by a fourth.

“Now I get towards the end of the field, especially when I’m going sideways,” he said.

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His goal was to “keep it off the bales, keep it out of the gutters”.

And he had high hopes for Ben, especially if the weather stayed dry, unlike last year.

“Ben was real sharp last year, he was virtually running second all weekend in Darcy’s crosskart, but they are no good in the wet. They just go straight ahead.”

Josh Mitchell ended up taking the win, Stefan Moser-Rust was second and Mark Higgins third.

These days Donn does a popular crowd pleasing demonstration run each year with a deserving passenger and admits to being more thrilled by the spins than getting on the leaderboard.

“It’s good, got to keep the old history going,” he said.

– The Ashburton Street Sprints, fuelled by KFC, is run by the Ashburton Car Club around the Riverside Industrial Estate in Ashburton on April 27 and 28, starting from 8am both days. Entry is $10 per adult, children aged under 15 free. Eftpos available. Food and beverage vendors on site.