When Ricky Lane lined up the big Class 8 Chev V8 out at Christchurch’s west Melton Park, it was the first time the 40-odd-year-old truck had raced in close to 10 years, reuniting his family with the vehicle they had last raced about 15 years ago.
Then, on the same track where he had played as a kid growing up in an off-road racing family, he had his first race win in an early heat, after a jammed throttle, and a mad grab at the kill switch, robbed him in the first, and was leading the enduro into the last lap, before his charge was halted by a suspension problem!
It’s a great story that’s going to get even better. We spent a few minutes talking to Ricky from his office in a Zinc processing plant in North Queensland where the outside temperature had just hit 46 degrees.
4×4 Action Adventure: I usually start these conversations by asking how you got into motorsport, but this time it’s pretty obvious.
Ricky Lane: (Laughs) Yeah, I reckon. My mum, dad and stepdad have been into off-roading and racing all my life. I remember digging round in the dirt out here with Owen Chang and Ollie McCall way back when we were just kids.
At about 13-years-old I was sitting in the cockpit of a 1200 hp dragster watching the oil pressure as it’s going through its start-up procedure. It was pretty exciting stuff. I have been very lucky!
Tell us about your first race.
I was eight years old and into the dirt bike scene — my first race was on an 80cc junior motocross bike.
You have stayed with the bikes for a while. Have you had a chance to do much in Australia?
Not as much as I would like, but I’ve managed to do the Finke classic a couple of times. The first time I went into the last lap 11th overall but I got a puncture part way around. I rode it to the end with a flat rear tyre and finished 35th overall.
I went back the following year and ended up eighth overall, which was pretty satisfying in that company. It was a bit unreal being in the company of these big name internationals, and they welcome you in.
Now you have had a taste of the truck, where to from here?
I’m going to spend time in the truck, it’s just so much fun to drive. Greg Hiddleston owns the truck, and we’ve done a bit of freshening up on it — it was totally stripped when we picked it up, and I own the engine, which Greg built, and the drivetrain. We’re going to pull it out and do a bit on it, and then I want to run a full season next year.
Obviously, I would love to do Finke in it, but we’ve got a bit to do on it before that, and I’ve got a lot to learn as well, so we’re just concentrating on NZ for the immediate future,
With living in the outback, what do you do when you’re not racing?
I have a collection of jetski’s we skid around on Lake Isa with, some of them are vintage models, and I spend quite a bit of time restoring them. I do a fair bit of engineering for my friends on their projects.
I also have a 1930 Ford Tudor hotrod I built from the ground up, sort of 60’s period correct, with 283 Chev and Muncie 4 speed.
So that’s your daily driver?
I wish! I do get to use it a bit, but I’ve got a 2013 US Toyota Tundra over here, and an NZ new Canadian built 55 Chev I’ve has nearly 10 years back in Christchurch.
What brought you back to Off Road Racing in NZ?
Well, I think the opportunity to drive the truck was a big part of it. I spent both days of the finals with a grin from ear to ear, it is just so much fun, and something I guess I always wanted to do. I really enjoy the enduros!
What’s it been like to come back out to West Melton?
The thing that stands out is the welcome from everyone in the sport, the help and support has been incredible. I need to mention Bryan Chang and Amanda King for their efforts.
But most of all, I just need to thank Greg for building me such a strong engine!
And with that, we left Ricky to get pack to the appraisal forms we had dragged him away from. We’re really looking forward to watching him chuck the big Chev around next year.
Keep an eye on our tech section for an in-depth story when Ricky will show us around the truck, and we will bring you nearly 40 years of history on a real New Zealand off-road icon.