From Rookie to Pro: Nico Reid

Posted in Cars, People

It’s Tuesday evening, and I’m sitting in a café waiting for my guest to arrive. It’s been about three years since we last caught up in this format, and outwardly at least there has been huge change. I’m not alone in noticing this. Strolling across the parking lot comes Nico Reid, all smiles having just finished doing work on a property with another member of the family. Perhaps this is part of the change, three years ago he seemed like he’d just woken up, and was more interested in eating takeaways than talking to me and telling his story.
I understand why Nico is smiling when he says to me in an almost embarrassed manner, “I’m living all these young fullas’ dream, ay, I get to drift and I feel good about having people supporting me”.

There it is … Nico Reid has taken his opportunity, and through a few tough seasons he has learned a thing or three, and become a more mature man. No longer is he the young gun with promise, but a competitor who is quietly confident that this coming season he will have the team and car package to get him on the series podium. That has put a smile on his face, and he’s now confident in sharing his journey. He quite openly tells me he is proud to represent his sponsors, that he knows nothing is for free, and they expect results.

We start to talk about where he came from, the early Nico who was all about ego and anger, showing off and thinking that no matter what, he had to be banging doors with whoever he was up against. “I learned you can’t win them all, ay, and you just have to do your best and then move on,” he said, as we discussed learning how to compete. “We used to just think we could show up, drive hard and do OK, now we know that we have to analyse the field, see who is driving well, who is fast or slow in a particular section, and understand that there are tactics in battle, and also work out what the judges want, and that we can’t change that.” At that point I realized just how much he has changed, I have no doubt the rage might still be there, but this is now the leader of a race team who realizes that he sets the tone for his team, and their perceptions.

Change is rarely made completely alone, and he speaks about ‘Dad’ aka Davey Reid in a tone which indicates the clear mana he holds. “Dad is still the boss, no matter what. He’s been around a while and tinkering with cars forever, and he has his ideas about what works and what doesn’t. He makes all the big calls still, as we move according to what he has learned about team. Tommie is our crew chief, he, Shane, Dion and Logan make sure I’ve got the car to do the job, we learned that having a smaller crew where everyone knows their job is way easier to manage.” There is also mention made of mad scientist Kaz Townsend, who he credits with teaching the team a lot about set-up and preparation. “We aren’t just doing skids any more, we are pulling way more g now and need to find that balance, everything is a double-edged sword.” He mentions that the motor was backed off massively this year, and it gave them less trouble than in prior years, also that set-up is key, not power.

The Wisefab [steering lock kit] situation was really tough for the team, he says, they struggled to get clear answers on whether they could or couldn’t run the gear, and he’d like to see some clarity around the rule process.

I asked his tips for those wanting to learn, and he was quick to say that he thinks buying a proven, or ready-built and set-up car is cheaper overall, and will let you learn faster. Too many guys want to tube frame or move to set-ups they don’t need, without understanding the basics of what they need to do. He does mention the fact he feels the sport has got too expensive, and lots of guys start building cars then give up when they realize just how much it might cost.

I asked about judging, and he told me that he is keen to give it a go, perhaps at this year’s D-comp, and as he puts it, “Let the young fullas have a run at the title”, (I hope you are listening, Drew).

We talked briefly about competition, and it’s clear he’s not one for the politics of the sport. He’d be happy to see Pro-Am stay as is, and would like to see the top 32 cut to 16 to keep the crowd interested, but isn’t really too fussed either way.

Lastly, I asked what’s changed for him personally, and it further reinforced how far ‘Neeks’ has come when he said, “Well I used to not really care, but now I feel like I am representing my family, my friends and drifting. I know exactly who it is I am going to go and speak with, you [MGN, Warren’s brand], Maori TV, Kenny from Oversteer, Steve from MMP, I worked out it’s better to say more and let you get what you want, than not say enough and miss something out.” Nico continued, “I was one of those fullas who didn’t care, but you need to learn respect and to manage that rush. It’s about finding that balance and realizing this is every young fulla’s dream. If I can do it, then anyone else can, too.”

I’d like to thank Nico for his time, and Tommie for setting everything up.

This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 226. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: