Written by Pete McNae

Burs is back. Not just back on track at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, either. No, Ian (Burs) Burson is back on the national podium, back cracking out the jokes and one-liners, back in love with speedway.

It’s not been an easy road for the likeable logging contractor. Even in his own mind, he wasn’t sure he’d ever want to again commit the time and energy required to fight his way to the front of a super saloon field. A heavy workload, lack of hours in a week and a run of results that didn’t reflect the talent of the team started to weigh on Burson and his team. They took some time out to regroup but … Burs is back.

Two weekends ago in Huntly, the 21N Hypermac Camaro was re-stickered as 3NZ, Burson chasing home Baypark brothers Steve and Chris Cowling, making it the fourth time Burson has earned an NZ number. A week later, the team was in Napier for the New Zealand Grand Prix at Meeanee and another podium, third this time behind Chris Cowling and local driver Grant Flynn. Given the chance to run with the North Island drivers in the Burger King series the following night, Burson earned a start from three on the grid in the feature and played with a few setup changes to finish fifth, with a whole new page in the team’s little book of knowledge.

“You know what I am most proud of?” Burson asks.  “We have had three meetings with the best cars in the game and we have loaded it back in the trailer looking like it did when we brought it up.  There’s not a mark on it — we had a flat tyre as the biggest handicap from those three meetings and four nights.

“I’m happy with that. Obviously, no one likes to tear up their gear but for me it also says I am driving properly again instead of being the guy who sometimes looked like I’d pinched the seat off the real driver.”

While that 1NZ continued to elude him, Burson was quick to praise the Cowling brothers. “Their cars are clean as a whistle, they both make their passes in the right place at the right time — none of the Desperate Dan stuff.  There’s no shame in being third to those boys, I couldn’t be happier to get back on that podium.”

The New Zealand champs meeting employs a different format from ones fans of the crash classes in Nelson might be used to. Five heats over two nights create a grid for a feature. The risk can be, as it was this year, that the track changes between nights one and two. Burson was fortunate to have his better grid draws on night two when passing was harder on a track surface that was a little one-laned.

“We have been on the other side of the coin the last two years,” he said. “Everyone knew the format when they entered but a couple of guys lose their mind and demand a change of format halfway through a title meeting when they can’t make passes. I’ve had a couple of years where the draw has gone against me — tough shit, race to the rules or think twice before you enter.”

There’s a chance the Ian Burson of the last season or two wouldn’t have spoken as passionately. He’s a new man this summer, in a number of ways.

In the middle of last year, Burson admits he tipped the scales at 146.6kg. He’s always been a big unit but that number was a worry. He was working 14 hour days and fitting in an hour with his family — but no exercise. Burson knew of others close to him who had undergone stomach surgery, discussed it with wife Julie (Chic) and, on August 24, had a gastric bypass operation performed in Christchurch. Immediately, his 4 and a half litre stomach was reduced to a 200ml pouch. Over eating makes him ill now. And, less than five months later, Burson is 40kg lighter and still losing weight.

“I had to carry a couple of 20 litre oil drums the other day and I realised that was what I was hauling round in my guts a few months ago,” he said. “I just don’t know if I was going to be able to be this well doing it naturally, there wasn’t enough hours in the day and I had lost weight before and then piled it back on with a bit more.

“Now, an extra spoonful or two and I pay the price by feeling crook. But it’s more than that — it’s all part of a mindset change that had to happen. I’m happy, I’m proud of a lot of things in my life and I just love racing this car again now.”

Ah, the car. It’s not the latest generation Hypermac, the Gen 5 that has a “walking” rear end that can crudely be called a rear wheel steer, but Terry and Rex Westley and crew have their modern chassis working well and performing predictably while the drivers with the Gen 5 cars are still searching for that key to unlock their full potential. And the Craig Hyland-built Engine Dynamics Chev is an angry piece of metal. It sounds different to the rest of the field and Burson believes it’s a special motor.

“It’s an identical configuration to what we have run before, we haven’t done anything radical with the exhaust either but it’s incredible, ridiculous. We can’t tame it and we get in the shit for noise everywhere because it sounds like a nasty, nasty lump. The horsepower is right up there but the torque figures are phenomenal — I’m a lucky driver.”

Saturday’s round of the Mag and Turbo Super Cup, presented by Nelson Automotive Solutions,  sees Burson arrive at his home track as the series leader, having slapped the field around in Cromwell and come away with decent points in Christchurch despite losing ground on a flat tyre. Weeks of intense racing have hit the field a bit but Burson still predicts between 15 and 18 entries on Saturday. Nelson’s Shane Carey, who suffered a serious injury last year, has put brother Mark in the 12N Camaro after Mark’s car blew the engine and he had been too busy at work to repair it.

“I say home track but it doesn’t feel like that when we get one meeting a year,” Burson says. “It’s tough on our sponsors and fans who want to see the car run at home and I’d love to be here more often too. Watch this space next year — that’s all I can say — watch this space. I can feel a change coming, if all the pieces fall into place.”

And watch for the next generation of Burson, too. Son Jack is approaching his 12th birthday and has already spent two years turning ministock laps in the paddock. He’ll get his first meeting under the mentor programme soon after his birthday at Nelson’s Easter meeting.

“It’s all mindset, mate — I feel like a weight has been lifted off me in every way and now everything is exciting. I’ve had some amazing support and now the family and the boys are back into this, feeling great and getting flags.”

  • The 3NZ Burson Racing Hypermac Camaro runs with the backing of TATE NZ Ltd, Inhaus, Debbie the Webster (Mike Pero Real Estate), Tony’s Engineering, Designart Signs, Brooks Auto Painters, Oakley’s Plumbing Supplies, AT Electrical, Llama Race Fuels, Engine Dynamics, Burson Logging, Terry Westley Drainlayers, Jack’s Tyres, BNT Motorsport and Millennium Driving Ltd.
  • Saturday’s meeting returns to the normal start time of 6pm and ticket prices also revert to their usual level after the hugely successful NZ Superstock Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

Photos: Rex Westley