Lotto millionaire Trevor Cooper's offroad racing debut is helping put Nelson on air this weekend.
The Aucklander is a passionate motorsport enthusiast and has been living his dream since winning $26 million, with multiple trips to the United States to buy and race offroad race cars and trucks.
His dad Kevin says Trevor was "born with petrol in his veins" and was a carry-along spectator at Western Springs Speedway long before he could walk and talk.
Offroad racing and speedway are twin passions for the family, so it was natural that offroad race vehicles were on Cooper's shopping list. He now owns two Pro2 race trucks in the US, and has a massive Jimco Champion race car on its way to New Zealand. In the meantime, to race this weekend, Cooper has bought the most advanced Cougar race car in New Zealand. The carbon-fibre and chrome-moly turbocharged racer was built by Neville "Max" Smith, co-founder of the Cougar brand. Cougars are the most successful offroad race cars in New Zealand and have won every major title in this country at least once.
Cooper's debut this weekend will be filmed by TV3 for sport news broadcast tomorrow night, with a cameraman turning up to scrutineering and for the first day of racing. Both 250km races will be held on a forest course at Dovedale.
Race organiser Darrin Thomason - who has brought his Nissan Navara out for a run at the title - says Cooper's presence has been well received and helps boost the profile of the sport.
It is the first offroad event to secure TV coverage this year.
"Trev's a loyal fan of offroad racing and it's fantastic to get his entry for this event.
"He's going to have a heck of a run - though the other class one cars and the big trucks will be working to keep him honest on both days," he says.
Cooper's presence at the race has also been a boost for entries with former national champion Daniel Powell heading north from Christchurch with his turbo Jimco race car, and another Aucklander, Alan Butler, bringing his Mitsubishi Evo-engined Millennium race car south.
Donald Preston also has a long trip. He is bringing his V8 supercharged Toyota Hilux from Winton for a crack at the title.
Wellington's Justin Leonard is bringing a new race truck to the event, bought in the US and shipped here two months ago.
The forest gates open at 8.30am tomorrow. The course is signposted from Dovedale Rd. Spectator admission is free.
- © Fairfax NZ News