Up in Ngongotaha lurks a speed demon.

Last month drag racer Robbie Ward and his team from Rotorua Import Pro Shop (RIPS) went to Meremere for the New Zealand IHRA Nationals with one thing in mind.

They weren't worried about a podium finish. All sights were set on breaking the world record for the quickest four-wheel-drive vehicle of any type. "The ultimate goal was always to get the world record in New Zealand," Ward told the Rotorua Daily Post, "and we were ready to give it a real good shot." He had planned to drive a highly modified R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R. His team had been working over the season to get up to top speed after switching to a new fuel type and changing the turbo.

By the time the nationals came around, RIPS were feeling ready to topple the record held by fellow Kiwi Reece McGregor.


Ward began drag racing when he was 18, and described himself as "your typical adrenalin junkie".

Now 44 he holds eight national import drag racing records - more than twice the number of any other driver in New Zealand.

"I'm very well known for doing things differently. I look at how everybody else is doing things and I think, 'How can I do it better'?" he said.

"Sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes it does."

It certainly worked at Meremere. On the car's final run, Ward clocked up an eye-watering 7.32 seconds at 191.95mph, smashing McGregor's previous mark of 7.41 seconds.

Now the RIPS team have been invited to take four cars to race in Australia this August.

Before last month's nationals McGregor had held the quickest 4WD world record for nine years, and Ward said he hoped the competition between drivers would continue.

"I hope he gets the record back off us because it would keep us motivated ... Some of his fans give us a hard time, and we give it right back. But it's all in fun.


"I've been friends with Reece for years.

"I like to race against the best guys."

Between race meets Ward and his team are kept busy with a steady stream of cars and engines at the shop in Kingsley Drive, Ngongotaha.

After starting to work on import cars 14 years ago, Ward said the shop now had jobs coming in from all over the world.

"The first one came from England, and from there we have built a reputation that we deliver what we say we are going to deliver.

"I have just always loved cars. I can't even remember ... I probably just saw a car at a wrecking yard when I was young and thought, that could be the start of something."