Two-time national champion Richard Burt might have bade farewell to his racing boat, but he's more involved than ever in the booming sport.
The Palmerston North funeral director and his mate, Keven Roberts, are manufacturing Stinger boats in Foxton, and the orders are flocking in. "It started as a little venture, has snowballed in front of us and got busier and busier," Burt said. "It is getting bigger and bigger."
Burt also leaves this week for the world championships in the United States where he will be the crewman for one of his proteges, Graeme Hill (Hastings), who had been 22 seconds off the pace until two years ago.
In 2010, Burt had a massive crash while racing at Tauherenikau in Wairarapa. His crewman broke his leg and Burt's boat sustained major damage.
It was repaired, a sponsorship deal fell over and the boat sat in the shed until six months ago when Burt decided he needed the space to repair boats. So he sold his old superboat.
"I hadn't raced our boat since I gave up," he said. "I've raced everybody else's and it has led to this other venture."
Burt had been repairing boats at home flat out for two years until Roberts saw the confined space in the shed in Palmerston North. They agreed they needed to move to the bigger building in Foxton from where Roberts operates his contracting business.
Speedway fans will recognise Roberts as a superstock racer, part of Supertanker Racing.
Burt has always raced Stinger boats with their mono vee hulls. He and Roberts have taken over the Stinger brand from Gisborne's Rex Briant who was too busy building fishing boats.
Up to nine Stinger boats will be going to the the worlds in the United States for the two rounds, in Missouri and Oregon, where their Stinger brand is one of the sponsors. The Stinger has dominated New Zealand's Group A racing since 2002.
New hulls start out at about $12,000 each before being fitted out. They buy in the jet units, but don't touch the engines.
Five other workers come in after-hours to help out in Foxton.
Burt said building boats was not the same as racing, but added that the racing "is not over, yet, as such".
He got back in a boat to help out a mate during world series racing in Featherston and Wanganui and was second quickest in the first round. However, the boat wouldn't start when it mattered. "I ended up winning the second round at Wanganui. I was only the B driver helping set it up and knocked out the owner in the last eight."
Burt is happy helping the sport and was proud of the February meeting at Baypark, Mt Maunganui. A track was excavated out of the rugby field inside the stockcar track, 16,500 people turned up and it was named the event of the year.
- Manawatu Standard
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