Off-road racing keeps drivers young at heart

Ben Thomasen putting his years of learned knowledge into action. Photo: Caitlin Houghton.

Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen and Dyson Delahunty have both been drawn to the ‘dirt sport’ since a young age – and they’re not doing too bad at it.

Ben started off-road racing in 2012 when looking for events to race his UTV, which was uncommon in the sport at the time as very little people knew what they were.

Dyson started racing in 2011 at age 11, beginning in the sport’s junior division.

Now, both boys race Polaris UTVs and are serious contenders in the New Zealand Off-Road racing scene, with Ben winning multiple NZ titles and Dyson not far behind him.

Dyson used to stand on the sidelines watching his parent’s race, now the tables have turned.  “I’ve grown up riding dirt bikes and quads since I was five, and four-wheel-driving, so naturally I was drawn to the dirt sport,” says Dyson.

“My dad builds my cars and he’s a big inspiration to me. He gets as much joy out of me racing as if he would racing himself. I always try to do my best for him as he likes to see a car that he’s built on top.”

Ben’s background is oddly similar, but in motocross. “I was drawn to off-roading as it’s the closest thing to motocross except on four wheels..

“I have great support from my family and friends. It’s probably our favourite way to spend weekends, travelling the country and racing.”

Both boys are supported by Polaris NZ and have been factory drivers for the corporation for the last few years, being given different cars to race.

And both have won titles in both UTV classes – the U class, a stock standard no-turbo class; and, S class, a fully-modified turbo class.

Dyson races in U class but switches to S class during longer racers, while Ben is full-time in S class.

Both boys repair their race cars any spare moment they’ve got.  Most conversations between Dyson and his dad are about what they’re going to do next to the car.

“I spend at least 40 hours fixing and or prepping my car between races,” says Dyson, who is a building apprentice.

“I’m pretty lucky my boss allows me to have a fair amount of time off when it comes to my racing.

Ben, who is managing director of Thomasen Transport, says prep time varies as Polaris quite often prep his car. “But if it’s a smaller event I’ll do it. I spend on average two days working on my car and packing before events,” says Ben.

“I do find it is hard finding the balance of work and racing but to me racing is relaxing time and my whole family loves the time away.”

The off-road racing championship starts around March with the final held Labour weekend. Ben is currently second in S class, and Dyson is sixth in U class.

Ben says the love of driving keeps him competing. “There’s nothing better than driving an enduro track in the forest, using all the knowledge you’ve gathered over the years to put a 250km-plus race together and also the family time and seeing them all enjoy it.”

Dyson says you just can’t beat the adrenaline rush. “And you can’t beat the sense of achievement after completion of a long enduro race.”


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