Full Story

In 2006 I was diagnosed with Cancer. I became seriously ill and had to undergo chemo and radiotherapy. I’m very pleased to say that thanks to the loving support from my family and the fantastic health care I received, I’m now in remission and still doing well. It did however make me look at life and what was important.  Thus, I started to do a few things I would never have done before. I had decided that one thing I really I wanted to do was to buy the car I could never quite afford as a youngster – a Ford Escort Mk2 RS2000. After months of searching NZ I couldn’t find one, so I turned to eBay and found this one in the UK :

My new RS2000 – July 2010

As you can see it looked pretty good, so I bought it and had it shipped to NZ.  Unfortunately I hadn’t done ALL my homework and hadn’t realised how tough it was to get an imported car complied for road use in NZ.  I assumed that a current MOT (the UK equivalent of an NZ WOF), would be good enough.  How wrong was I?!!!  I mean, the car looked mint in the photos (and the previous owner supplied lots of them, and took any I requested too).  I knew there was a little rust, but it WAS 30yrs old! It turned out that the car was completely rotten and had all sorts of problems, which resulted in me having to decide whether to scrap the car on the spot or commence a full nut and bolt restoration.  Sadly for my partner, I went for the restoration.  I must have been nuts!  I’ve put a few images here of  what I was up against!

Black underseal hid lots of things


What we found underneath the black underseal


Rust hole
Even large holes were hidden by the thick black underseal

A year or so into the project I realised I was going to need a new shed to put the car in once completed to save it from the kids and dents from footballs or scratches from bike handlebars. During the process of getting quotes, I met Danny from Ideal Buildings and Garages.  As luck would have it, Danny was a big Escort fan and told me he owned a couple, one of which he used in local motorsport events.  We hit it off immediately, and before long he’d invited me to come and have a ride during a hillclimb event at MacDougall Quarry Road in 2011.

Danny taking the last corner at MacDougall Quarry Hillclimb – 2011

The hill climb was 2.5kms of sheer exhilaration.  I was scared shitless and excited all at the same time – and the noise was unbelievable!  I was totally hooked. I wanted – no, NEEDED – to get myself a car and have a go. So the search started, and of course only a Mk2 Escort would do.  I wanted to experience what it was like to drive a competition car for myself.  After several months of looking I found one owned by Craig Howser.  The car was setup for tarseal and circuit events which suited me fine as I could relate to driving on tarseal.  So I did the deal and bought the car from Craig.

Craig Howser, circuit racing

I was very lucky to have a VERY understanding partner at the time. She was a keeper for sure and we’re now very happily married.  Well, I say happily….I’m not sure she’s forgiven me yet.  Not only did I buy 2 Ford Escorts, but I then proceeded to remove her pride and joy (a 2008 Holden GTS) from the garage to the driveway so my Escorts could have a nice new shed. Danny and his son Mitch kept telling me gravel is where it’s at but I was adamant I was going to start out on tarseal as I didn’t want to go on gravel to slide off into a tree on the first corner! Not long after buying the car Danny arranged for us to have a test at an old disused saw mill.  I was up for that, as it was tarseal for most of the time and there was a short bit of gravel but not much. A short course was marked out around the site with cones. One “reccy lap” and then we were into it.

Danny James, Mitch James and Jason Byrne

I drove the car hard all day and eventually burnt the clutch out and had to stop.  This was my first experience of the pain of motorsport. After changing my clutch, I quickly joined my local Motorsport Club (Motorsport BOP) and looked out for the next tarseal event.  As it was nearing the end of the year, it turned out I had missed all the tarseal events and there was only one event left – GRAVEL. I took the plunge and entered and spent the next few weeks getting the car ready for gravel.  I found Danny and other members of the Club very helpful at getting me started – I was even given a set of second hand gravel tyres by Andrew Shrimpton (thanks Andrew!).   Anyone thinking about joining a Club should – I’ve met lots of really neat people and made some really good mates. So to the first event….Tect Park Gravel Sprint 2011. After a quick “reccy lap”, it was time to line up.  I was convinced that the gravel was so slippery on the “reccy” that I wouldn’t get out of second gear and I have never been so scared as I was sitting in that car.  So I’m in line waiting for my turn, my heart is in my mouth, my mind is racing… I felt as the “new boy” that every pair of eyes were on me to see how I was going to perform. I pulled up to the start line and told myself to go hard and enjoy it and waited to be counted down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO!!!!!  At full revs I dumped the clutch and took off.  At this point a very strange thing happened.  A calmness washed over me and my mind became totally focussed on what I was doing.  The focus was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before…it was total – almost tunnel vision.  Long gone were any thoughts of messing up and looking stupid.  Long gone were the thoughts of being in the shit at home for evicting the Holden from its garage … I was on my way! Before I knew it I was sliding through my first fast bend.  WOW – what a feeling!  I pushed harder and started to slide even more.  I was rallying for the first time ever and it felt unreal!   Throughout the event my confidence grew and my times dropped.  I was nowhere near as fast as other club members – especially the 4wd turbos, but that didn’t matter.  I had just had the best time, and I had challenged myself and did better than I ever thought I could. I wanted to share my new found buzz with all my mates and bore them to death with every detail and every corner, but having moved from the UK to NZ I left most of my mates behind.  I had to find a way of sharing this with them.  My onboard camera was a start as I could put something on YouTube – and that’s exactly what I did. After chatting to other drivers, it seemed that they wanted to share their footage etc, and the idea of a dedicated website started forming.  Danny suggested that somehow we could involve the spectators as well as other drivers. After giving it some thought, I decided to start this website to see how it grows and evolves.  It would be nice if drivers and spectators could share their footage and images.  As drivers, we notice people taking photos and video but we never get to see them.  Hopefully this site will become somewhere that helps all of that footage get to the people who really want to see it. The website was started in June 2012 and is still very much a work in progress.  We hope to be spreading the concept at future events, so if you’ve managed to read all my waffle and get this far, please stop by at any event you see us at and say hi or just drop me an email. My RS2000 still isn’t complete, much to my frustration (and it’s been in NZ nearly 2 yrs now), but I’m hoping it will be complete in the next couple of weeks (July 2012 would be nice) – will keep you posted.

Most recent photo of my RS2000 – Taken end of June 2012

September 2014 Update : I had always meant to pop back here and submit some more up-to-date images of the RS2000, but got so busy trying to run this site I never got around to it, so here they are :

I’m still trying to find the time to do a proper photo shoot of the RS.  I have also progressed a little with my driving and have repainted the Blue Escort :

So remember to keep it a little bit sideways and above all, have fun!!




  1. Found your website from Yahoo, thank you for the wonderful read.

  2. Thanks for your comment

  3. Hi J,
    Just read this page for the first time and it brought back a few memories of the past 4 or 5 years. It’s been facinating to watch you recover from illness and grow as an individual with the support of your wonderful wife Dee and the kids, Ashlee, Jake & Dylan. Mum and I are so proud of your achievements – keep on going. By the way, it may be time to give us an update on your RS 2000 which now looks so good we are afraid to touch it! Cheers, Dad

  4. Hi. I found this site today. I am impressed ….well done .Keep going with the good work……

    Kind regards
    Toma I

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