It is the nature of my job that I get to do the odd trip, and hey, I’m not complaining. However, one trip of 2014 really stood out to me as a highlight. It stood out as an event that I will remember for the rest of my life. Why? Simply put, I made more friends down in Nelson at the V 4&Rotary South Island Champs than I have ever done in one place before. I will never get over the southern hospitality that I was shown, the cars I shot, scoped out, and featured, but most of all, I will never forget the faces.

When I got word that I would be making the trip down again this year for the November 7–8 event at Motueka Airport, and Saxton Stadium, to represent NZ Performance Car once again, I was ecstatic. Last year you all caught me off guard; you don’t talk about power figures in kilowatts, and you like to stay up extremely late on the Friday night before Saturday’s drag racing (thanks Mikey). But, South Islanders, this year I’m ready for you. I also learnt not to trust the shady hire-car company I used last year — an overheating 1990 Nissan Bluebird is not a good brand image. Instead, this year I may be cruising Nelson's beautiful open roads in a feature car I photographed last year thanks to a good friend I made last time around (here’s hoping).

There are a few things you should know before you make the trip to Nelson for the South Island Champs, so I’m going to enlighten you on these matters here. First of all, get ready for a serious slapping of vitamin D when you arrive in Nelson. I was looking like a tomato in no time, but I wasn’t even mad — it was stunning.

The South Island residents are a rare breed, and even sport there very own special tattoo as seen on this fine bare-footed citizen.

The drag strip in Motueka is definitely one of a kind. It’s hard to find the balance between watching the numerous high-powered vehicles power their way down the drag strip, and looking at the beautiful snow-capped mountain scenery in the distance. Let’s hope the drivers don’t get distracted in this manner.

The crowds come out in their droves for Saturday’s drag racing. Who wouldn’t? There’s a huge amount of cars parked up, perfectly mown green glass, plenty of shade, and even more action.

If you’ve never seen the show scene in the South Island, get ready. They’re passionate about what they do, and I’d say, as a percentage, there are more dedicated projects in the south than in the north. I’m looking forward to seeing Jared Croft and Blake Cany Harpur’s next-level Nissan Silvias. I’ve been told they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeves this year.

I’ll also be trying to get to know as many workshops and feature car owners as possible, to get a better understanding of how the performance scene operates down south. Last year I met Adrian Curtis from Tyres and More, among many others, however Adrian let me have a fang in his insanely quick diesel BMW. It’s passionate business owners such as Adrian that have me excited about the southern car scene.

During the actual V 4&Rotary South Island Champs event itself, I will be scouting the halls and paddocks to find six cars for a ‘Top 6 Cars at the South Island Champs’ feature for the next issue of NZ Performance Car. Make sure you get those polishers out, get that bodywork completed, and those engine upgrades done.

As an added bonus, Nelson, Motueka, Abel Tasman, and other surrounding areas will provide you with some of the nicest and purest scenery you’ve ever laid eyes on.

From sunsets ...

to abandoned old barns ...

to dense forest on Rabbit Island — get ready to be blown away, and I mean it.

Nelson is also home to the World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum, which is certainly worth a cheeky visit.

Now, you may have a few extra reasons to make the trip south, or north, whatever it may be. I guarantee you’ll leave with more friends than when you started, some fantastic memories, and a want for the next one to come around in a timely fashion. See you at the track, Abel Tasman National Park, out at dinner, the Friday night meet, or at the show — it’s going to be a blast!

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.