Hawke's Bay solo bike rider Bradley Wilson-Dean has made no secret of the fact he wants to be New Zealand's first world champion since Ivan Mauger.
Last week the 22-year-old Karamu High School product proved how serious he is about matching the exploits of Mauger, who won six world championship titles between 1968 and '79, when he helped his Swindon Robins team capture the United Kingdom Elite League title with a one-point victory over the Wolverhampton Wolves. With this victory Wilson-Dean became the first Kiwi to win National League (with Eastbourne in 2015), Premier League (with Somerset last year) and Elite League titles in three consecutive seasons.
"For those who don't know the significance it will be like playing for the Manchester United soccer team and winning the English Premier League while playing alongside David Beckham," proud father and fellow rider Darrin Wilson explained.
"One of his teammates, Jason Doyle, has a 14-point lead with one round remaining in the world championship," Wilson said.
The Robins went into the second leg away at Wolverhampton trailing by four points after their first leg at home. In a thrilling meeting the Robins snatched a 47-42 victory which gave them a 90-89 aggregate score.
"I couldn't believe it because the 1989 and '90 seasons were when I raced for the Robins," Wilson recalled.
What added to the significance of New Zealand champion Wilson-Dean's feat was the fact he hadn't raced at the Monmore Green track in three seasons of racing in England. However, he quickly adapted to the tight turns and scored an impressive seven points including a vital third place in heat 14 to keep the tie in the Robins' favour.
"This is the highlight of my career. Rosco [Robins manager and England World Cup team manager Alun Rossiter] played a major part tonight and kept telling me to go out and do my job. I really can't believe we have won this really and I want to thank all my sponsors who have helped along the way. I want to thank everyone behind the scenes at Swindon too. It's been a great first season for me personally," Wilson-Dean said.
"We knew we had let ourselves and everyone down on Monday at home but we could still turn the tie around and with us getting a 5-1 maximum in that opening ride it gave the team a lift and belief we could cause an upset.
"I think I was running a different setup to the rest of the boys but it was working for me. I did my best from the off and was learning the quickest lines around the place every time I went out and rode. The bike was working off the start line tonight and it felt as though I had the speed to race," he added.
His father predicted his son will only get faster as he gains more experience in the United Kingdom and Europe.
"People say I taught him well. I only purchased bikes and tools for him to do a job. It was up to him as to how well he did it. But it's on occasions like this when all the memories of all those trips we made to the United States and Europe flow back ... all those sacrifices paid off," Wilson said.
His son started out as a motocross rider when he was 4 and switched to speedway when he was 11.
Hawke's Bay-based Speedway New Zealand president David Jones was thrilled with what Wilson-Dean has achieved.
"Bradley is the country's No 1 ranked solo bike rider and the fact he is a third-generation rider, following his grandfather Tony Wilson and father Darrin. We couldn't be more excited for him. We haven't had a Kiwi perform at this level since Larry Ross in the 1980s and Bradley is our first rider from the Bay to race in the United Kingdom since Andrew Bargh did more than 10 years ago," Jones said.
"We look forward to his future feats ... it's exciting times for him," he added.
Karamu High School's head of sport Tom Blake agreed Wilson-Dean was just as big a role model in his sport as another former student, Olympic Games kayaker Aimee Fisher, was in hers.
"Obviously Aimee has the bigger profile because her sport is an Olympic one but if any of our students want to do well in speedway they won't have to look far for inspiration," Blake said.