When Rotorua's Shaun Heron travelled to Riverside Speedway in Invercargill he was just another driver. He returned a history maker.

Heron competed in the New Zealand Production Saloon Championships last month, the first time an official national title was raced for in the class. He out-raced the other 32 drivers, in his 1998 Nissan Primera P11, to become New Zealand's first production saloon champion.

"I was on cloud nine after the win, I was pretty happy about it. I was kind of hoping to be in the top 10 cars, but turns out I won it," he said.

After rain disrupted qualifying night, further heats were held on the Saturday during which Heron earned enough points to start in eighth place on the grid in the 20-lap feature race.


"It took me about 15 laps to actually work my way up into the top five. Then it was the last four laps, when my car was really hot, and I was passing everything out wide.

"On the second to last lap I got past the person in first and I finished with a four-second lead."

He said it was a nervous final lap, knowing that one mistake would give his opposition another chance.

"Crossing the finish line, I was the happiest person ever."

Production saloon drivers race in modified "road-going" or "factory" cars. They do not reach the speeds of some of the other classes, so driving ability and technical skills are paramount.

Heron started off racing mini stocks before discovering a passion for the production saloon class.

"I first started racing when I was about 13 because my mum and my three brothers were all into it. I enjoy everything about it, it's just so much fun. I get the same adrenaline rush every single time, it never gets old.

"There's not that many people into production saloon, but I'm hoping heaps more people join up. It's cheap to run, you just buy a normal car, strip it out and then set it up, plus there's a national title now.

"On the track you probably range from about 60-100km/h, it's not really fast but you're humming it in second gear for most of it. You just try to keep your car around centre, so the people behind you can't go on the inside or outside."

He will be hard to miss at future race meetings, with NZ1 proudly printed on the side of his car.