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Lotto millionnaire 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 of America 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 whole family, so it was natural that offroad race vehicles were on Trevor's shopping list. He now owns two Pro2 race trucks in the USA, and has a massive Jimco Champion race car on its way to New Zealand. In the meantime, to race this weekend, Trevor 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 the sport in this country at least once.
Trevor's debut this weekend will be filmed by TV3 for sport news broadcast, with a cameraman turning up to scrutineering and also for the first day of racing. Both 250 km days will be held on a forest course at Dovedale.
Race organiser Darrin Thomason - who has himself brought his Nissan Navara out for a run at the title - says Trevor'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.
Trevor's presence at the race has been a boost for entries also, 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 all the way from Winton for a crack at the title.
Wellington's Justin Leonard is also bringing a new race truck to the event, bought in the US and shipped here two months ago.
The forest gates open at 8.30 on Saturday, the course is signposted from Dovedale Road and spectator admission is free on both days.