Written by Pete McNae

Winning championships never gets dull for Nelson stockcar driver Keightley Teece.

You’d think that, maybe after squeezing another South Island trophy into the collection last Saturday at Woodford Glen near Christchurch, the 21-year-old linehaul driver for Solly’s Freight could be a bit blase about it but number three on the trot means plenty.

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often and this one probably stands out because I didn’t have the surrounding cars from Nelson this time,” Teece said.

He first won the championship on his home track at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway two summers ago, then defended it last season with a clean run in Blenheim. The odds against Teece making it three straight shifted a long way against him when 35 cars took the grid at the Glen on Saturday — with just four; Teece, John Everett, Ben Smith and Shane Brooks, from Nelson.

In the first heat, off grid 32, Teece had a clear idea of what was needed. “When you’re that far back in a big field, that can be your big points-gainer, just pass as many cars as you can and make up as many places as you can without getting bombed.”

Teece had 10 of those passes by the first corner of lap one but also picked up a flat left front tyre as he bumped his way through. He cleverly stuck to the pole line, the 217N Rees-Buick didn’t shed the tyre and he still managed to come home in fifth, putting a big stash of points in the bank. He went from grid 15 in heat two, again shot past a chunk of the field on the inside and as others got tangled, Teece took the race lead and went on to win.

With a three-point lead over Nathan Taylor and Michael Arras going into the deciding heat, Teece figured he knew what was coming.

“I went out the gate expecting to be completely annihilated,” he said. “I figured there was no way the C (Canterbury) cars were going to let me have the trophy on their track and someone was going to go big to stop me.”

While Everett had a good run, hampered only a flat in heat two, Brooks and Smith were in the wars. Both were on the end of huge shots, their cars significantly bent with Smith’s former Cody Teece Rees chassis by all reports in need of a speedway surgeon if it is to ever make it back to the track. “That car was part of the family for a long time and Ben was going great in it — so that one was a bit personal. The other driver must know he’s marked if he ever shows up here.”

Brooks also took a thundering hit and has a lot of steelwork ahead on the immaculate 86N Perkins-Ford.

Meanwhile Teece had battles of his own on his hands. Evan Ross in 44C took a huge lunge  (“I was lucky to get out in one piece”, Teece said) and he had an ongoing scrap with Daniel Lamb in the 52C Tank while dodging Ross who was crawling the pole line. Ultimately, all the attacks came to nothing, Teece easing off on the last two laps to protect his lead and staying back from the designated hitters. After a long ministock and stockcar career, even at 21 his experience and racecraft showed as he won heat three and the championship.

“Sometimes you win by going slower, if that makes sense. I knew where the guys were behind me so I eased up a bit so I didn’t have to deal with the guys on the pole line. If I had needed to keep charging, I would have had to take my chances, but I was lucky enough to be able to Nana it two laps for the win.”

Taylor was second and Arras third with Brad Rosewarne and Jay Holtham completing a bunched top five. Everett, undone by the flat in the second heat, was seventh behind Troy Currie.

The South Island championship adds to an impressive start to the season for Teece. He’s already banked the Trackman Trophy, hit to pass and club titles on his home track and has decided to roll the dice and enter the New Zealand champs in a field of 180-plus stockcars at Baypark next month, thanks to the support of Kris Carpenter and Cleaners Wholesale Nelson Ltd.

Teece is the only Nelson entrant and hadn’t planned to travel until he went to the NZ Superstocks meeting at the Glen earlier this month and got a little bit excited. Carpenter’s assistance with ferry costs sealed the deal.

“Watching the (superstock) meeting in Christchurch convinced me I needed to go, so looking forward now to being the N car in that huge field.”

Teece is due to represent the N this weekend too with the Dean’s Truck Services Tasman Thunder at Greenstone Park to take on the Greymouth Grizzlies in a teams race. So far, four drivers are confirmed with the Nelson club hoping to take a fifth. Teece will captain the Thunder alongside Everett, Dylan Clarke and Hamish Carter. Teece didn’t make a lap of their first encounter, the car breaking axles while Everett, Carter and Clarke did the business.

“It was awesome to see. To be stuck on the infield, then watch the boys go to work, I was pretty stoked.”

The Thunder also have an assignment due in late February when Stratford hosts the New Zealand Stockcar Teams Championships. With car numbers down, that’s not yet locked in. Teece will struggle to get time off work a week after the Baypark trip with Smith, Carter and Levi Collier uncertain travellers. Balancing that, the Hall brothers; Adam and Dylan, seem close to getting new cars on the track and Brad Frost hopes to have found an answer to his car’s overheating issues by getting the fan spinning in the right direction.

While superstock racing remains a distant ambition for Teece (he’s looked the goods in Shane Harwood’s 18N car in practice laps), he’d be keen to base the stockcar in the North Island for a month or two one season, just to get track time in big fields with so many venues close together. Budget stands in the way but, when you’ve gone back-to-back-to-back in the South Island, the next challenges might lie across the strait.

  • Keightley Teece thanks Darrin Limmer of Infield Engineers and brother Cody for their work on the car while he has strong family support from mum Pauline, partner Tayla, along with Danielle, Tania and kids.  Infield Engineers Ltd,  Sollys,  NVD Logistics,  Leech Motorsport,  Lift N’ Shift, Cleaners Wholesale,  Footprint Signs, Jacks Tyres, FWD Spares, Filco Farm & Sport, Sun City Panel and Paint, Opel Industries, Richmond Cars & Commercials Ltd, JVS Ltd, Hose, Fittings & Hydraulics provide sponsorship support.

Photos by Tom Laney,