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Otautau motor racer calls it quits

The Southland App

Lindsay Beer

13 March 2024, 6:34 PM

Otautau motor racer calls it quitsA familiar sight. Ian McKenzie of Otautau in his Datsun Sunny at Teretonga Park, Invercargill. Photo: Supplied.

A familiar sight at Teretonga Park will be no more after this weekend as 80-year-old Otautau driver, Ian McKenzie, calls time on his motor racing after many years of competing at Teretonga Park.


McKenzie had a real passion for motor racing as a school kid which only increased through a neighbour, John Glover, who not only raced but was the brother-in-law of southern motoring icon, Jack Johnstone.


Ian wanted to race so joined the Southland Sports Car Club in 1964 and did one race meeting in his pride and joy, a 1958 MKII Zodiac road car.



“I quickly decided I didn’t want to wear it out or damage it. At the same time, I went into business with a mate, then came marriage and a family so I didn’t race for years.”


“It was the late Steven Kennedy who got me involved again. I did some flag marshalling and was in the process of building a MKIII Zephyr for Pre 65 Racing.


"Steven had a Datsun Sunny that was surplus to requirements and some parts from a similar car that he had rolled."


Ian McKenzie in action. Photo: Supplied


"I built the car up with the help of John Keast, fitted an A12 engine, and went club racing late in the 1993/94 season.”


Plenty of success followed including multiple 0-1300cc Class Championships and a real highlight, the Southland Sports Car Club’s Overall Race Championship in the 1997/98 season.


“That was the last 1300cc car to do it,” says Ian.



He does laugh as he recalls some advice given to him by fellow competitor, Dave Robertson, early on.


“He gave me a piece of mechanical advice. I didn’t take it and first time out I ran the bearings.”


Eventually the A12 engine was replaced with an A12A. Someone offered to buy the A12A and on the last lap of the last race on the last day I was racing with it in the car it blew up right in front of the perspective purchaser. The sale never happened! It was a fun car to drive and there was some great racing.”



“In my mind I wanted more power,” and an S14 Nissan Silvia engine was procured and a turbocharger fitted but Ian says, “it never handled as it did before and the lap times were not a lot quicker.” 


Through it all Ian has spent the bulk of the last thirty years in the Sunny.


“I missed a couple of seasons when my wife Ola was ill and also gave the seat to my son John in points races for a couple of seasons although I still did some races (John won the 0-1300cc class twice in that time)".



Ironically it was Ian’s wife Ola, who sadly passed away in November 2017, who was instrumental in him continuing in the sport.


“Ola wasn’t really into motor racing and I would have given up. I had someone keen to buy the car but Ola who was ill at the time said don’t sell.”


Ian has been a constant at Teretonga Park and last season won the Southland Sports Car Club’s Last Man Standing Award, made for the most continuous starts over a period.



Ian started out in life as an apprentice mechanic at H.E. Melhop and says that helped him to be able to carry on so long. I was able to work on the car to keep costs down.”


This weekend’s Southern Thunder meeting at Teretonga Park will make it 120 race meetings at the circuit for Ian.


He has done virtually all his racing here with just two other outings over the years at Timaru.



“I’m still having fun and I will miss it. I decided I would do one season at 80 years of age and that would be it.” 


He speaks highly of some of the young drivers coming through in the Noel McIntyre Drainage Club Saloons mentioning Nieko Scoles and Josh Cooper as two examples while he acknowledges the assistance of Steven Kennedy, John Keast and son John for their help over his many years of competition.


And what of the future?



“I will be at Teretonga but as a spectator. I’ve done my share of flag marshalling and building tyre walls.”


No one will begrudge Ian putting his feet up but the sight of him in the familiar Datsun Sunny will be missed.


The Southern Thunder action starts at 10.00am on Saturday (16 March) and at 9.30am on Sunday 17 March. 



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