Hamish Kelsey delivered some Kiwi flavour to the Championship Off-Road podium when he won Saturday’s Pro Turbo SxS race at the Dirt City Motorplex. He is the first New Zealand native to win an American short course off-road race since Rod Millen in the unrelated Championship Off-Road Racing in the early 2000s.
Kelsey started fourth but a strong start propelled him into the lead as the field approached turn one. He battled with favourite C.J. Greaves for much of the race before the latter’s car abruptly slowed to a stop on lap nine, which allowed Kelsey to lead the final three laps.
Rodney VanEperen, whose team prepares Kelsey’s UTV, tried to narrow the margin but finished over a second back. Andy Kleczka rounded out the podium.
“Lining up on the start line knowing who was behind me, there was C.J. and Kyle (Chaney) and Rod, I had to make it the widest hairpin I could and I managed to hang on,” said Kelsey on the podium. “I’m not sure what happened to C.J. there, but he was flying.
“Thank you everyone back home; Mum, Dad, Gran watching, and Alex, my brother, he’s the backbone of my UTV racing and everything he’s done for me is incredible. The VanEperen family for giving me the opportunity to be here, I just can’t thank them enough.”
VanEperen probably thought otherwise and joked, “I guess I gave him too good of a car, so we’re going to have to detune that thing next time.”
Kelsey might be in his rookie season in Championship Off-Road, but it did not take long for him to look like a natural as he has recorded podium finishes at least once in all four rounds to date. The three previous podiums were all third-place runs. He entered Dirt City third in points behind VanEperen’s son Owen and Chaney.
When not racing, he is the quarry and contracting manager for Coromandel Quarry and Contracting in Manaia, Waikato. Brother Alex competes in the New Zealand Rally Championship.
Millen, a five-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb champion, won five times in CORR’s Pro 4 class during the 2000 season en route to a runner-up points finish; two of the wins came at Crandon and Bark River, both of which are current Championship Off-Road stops. He and brother Steve previously won American short course championships in Mickey Thompson’s stadium trucks, while son Rhys has enjoyed success in other off-road disciplines like hillclimbing, desert racing, and rallycross.