Despite this season having just wrapped up, eyes are already looking forward to the next season of Superstock teams racing, which shapes up to be one of the most competitive campaigns in years gone by.

This year’s titles have been spread far and wide, with the Canterbury Glen Eagles winning the highly coveted New Zealand Superstock Teams Championship in Palmerston North, the Auckland Allstars recently taking the Teams Invitation in Huntly and the Kihikihi Kings emerging victorious at Waikaraka Park in the Teams Nationals in the weeks prior.

With the likes of the Panthers, Hawkeyes, Scrappers and Busters having been through varying periods of success, each to their own, the new age is bringing about the emergence of some immense talent and some absolutely stacked line-ups.

Undoubtedly, the Kihikihi Kings are one of those teams, fronted by influential manager Euan Means who has tapped into a driver market of varying levels of expertise, positioning the team in a manner that makes them hard to overlook for any forthcoming competition.

Next to Means’ side is experienced campaigner Mitch Vickery, no stranger to the sport, having achieved success in recent years with accolades, including Stockcar 3NZ in 2020 and Superstock 3NZ just a year later.

Asher Rees is another campaigner who needs no introduction, the current 1NZ paving his own legacy in the sport despite coming from a family who could all be labelled greats in their own right. While Rees’s successes have predominantly come in solo racing, his prowess in teams racing this year should be something of concern for competitors nationwide.


“I think the best he’s ever teams raced was this year at Waikaraka Park and then again in Huntly,” says Means.

“In terms of individual racing, and I’ve said this for a while, I don’t think there’s ever been anyone close to Asher Rees.

The Kings were outpowered by the Allstars at the Huntly Invitation. Image: James Selwyn

“For teams racing, it’s good to have the 1NZ in there. I think he’s come of age this year. I think the best I’ve ever seen him was in Auckland. Sometimes having someone like Asher is detrimental to having in your team environment because he’s such an attraction.

“He attracts a lot of attention on the track, which makes it a little bit easier for guys like Mitch, who in his own right is an exceptional team racer and could easily make any team in the country.”

While the Kings’ raw pace and running abilities are often at the forefront of the display, there’s also a significant amount of work going on further back, with veteran Gavin Taniwha leading a defensive line-up capable of challenging any of the country’s top runners.

“Going out, I think the pressure and the targeting are on Asher, but by the same token, in our team at the moment, you’ve got to look at Gavin Taniwha as the best teams racer in the country, and that was identified ages ago,” Means continues. “You’ve got to have a good block man to win races.

“I think Gavin has proven that to a lot of people who have been sitting there watching what he can do with their mouths hanging open, to be honest, because in Auckland Gav’s car was under development. It was a development car when we raced it at Palmy with a BMW motor.

“It was the first race it had ever had. It went well, but we weren’t happy with some of the stuff it was doing, so we quickly changed that out and it wasn’t available for Waikaraka.

“You can pretty much chuck Gav in any car; he goes out there and performs like a champion.”

Coming from humble beginnings, Taniwha attributes his successes to those who have helped him along the way, including none other than Peter Rees.

“I was doing adult Mini Stocks and was sharing a car with my son Chev, and that’s how I got into the sport,” says Taniwha. “Peter Rees must have taken a little notice and gave me a drive of his car when he had a sit-out period.

“Because of Peter Rees, for some reason, he gave me a drive of one of the top Stockcars back in the day, and he’d been knocked out, or something like that, in one of the teams races, so he offered me a drive, and I raced that car for about three meetings.

“He must have seen something he liked in me, and he acquired the old track car that Peter Bengston used to race as a Superstock, and we got that as a roller and put a standard Holden V6 in it and went racing from there.

“We made the Steelers in the first season and won in Huntly. Then we won the New Zealand Stockcar Teams championship down in Wellington.


“That’s how the teams racing side of things started, and then it progressed from there, really.”

Following multiple moves over his decorated career, Taniwha announced his retirement from the sport in 2017, when a regular spot was hard to come by in the stacked Gisborne Giants.

The Giants and the Kings went to war at Waikaraka Park with Kihikihi winning a thriller. Image: Wayne Drought

“Form-wise, I’ve always said to myself, if I’m no longer in the starting line-up, then the writings on the wall,” he stated in that announcement.

Despite retiring, Taniwha continued to make cameo appearances around the country, often with son Chev who was also making a splash in the scene. It was an incident involving Chev, Taniwha says, that almost made him give up the sport for good.

“I happened to be given a drive with the old track car and was teams racing up in Auckland with my son, Chev,” he says. “He broke his neck in a teams race up there, which was really traumatic.

“I basically didn’t want anything to do with Speedway after that, and stayed away from the place for a season and a half and gave away all my trophies and ribbons and everything.”

The brutal nature of the sport was something Taniwha had also cited in his retirement announcement, saying, “The head knocks in teams racing is a concern; there have been times I have come off the track and couldn’t remember what happened or where my trailer was parked. You only get one brain; mine was already rather limited, lol.”

Ultimately, the Kings got Taniwha back into the car, a welcome addition who has done wonders in his time onboard.

“Euan and Mitch Vickery brought me back into the fold, so I’ve got a lot to thank them for. Those two were the instigators,” he says.

Of course, three people don’t make a team, with Vickery, Rees, and Taniwha joined by the more-than-capable Shane Mellsop, a decorated racer who has racked up an impressive record over a career that has spanned many years.

Having all four of these drivers on track at once, Means says, would put the Kings in the running for any championship. That’s something easier said than done, however.

“All teams have their luck and have been unlucky,” said Means, “but we’ve never really had a final where we’ve had our top four on the paddock at once, and that’s been like that for three or four years, with the likes of babies, or illness, or whatever. So if we could field Mitch, Asher, Gav and Shane, for example, all on the paddock at once, we probably would have had a few more titles, to be fair, in the last four years.

“The Palmy Teams is something every team wants to win, and I feel that if we can turn up with Asher, Mitch and Gav all on there at the same time, it’ll be a different story from what it has been in the past.”

Taniwha shares these sentiments, pointing out occasions where a complete line-up could have painted a different picture this year.

1NZ Asher Rees has had a year to remember in teams racing. Image: Wayne Drought

“We lost Asher in the Palmy Teams against Christchurch, and we lost a few numbers, but then we were unfortunate with Roigard rolling himself over; it’s just a bit of a luck thing, it just didn’t swing our way, which it could have. If Roigard stayed up and Asher wasn’t taken out. I was the last one running. It’s pretty hard to block for a team when you’ve got no runners left.”

“Of this season, I think Asher at Waikaraka was outstanding. I missed Huntly because I was shifting house that weekend. But then I heard Mitch Vickery came out of a cold because he’s pretty much sat out this season, but he was outstanding as well.”

The Kings finished third in Huntly this year, losing to the Allstars in the semi-finals.

The rotating line-ups have produced an unseen benefit, however, with a range of younger talent presented with opportunities to perform at the top level, given the absence of one or more of the stars.

The likes of Stefan Roigard, Matt Picard, Matt Nielsen, and Dion Henderson have all had hit outs this year, capitalising on the opportunity to impress while surrounding themselves with the wealth of talent present in the King’s stalwarts.

“You’ve got to try and fold them over,” says Means, discussing the succession planning in place in the team. “That’s what we’re trying to do at Huntly by giving Dion Henderson a run because we’ve got the Kings Stockcar team, which is a feeder to the Superstock team, so many of those guys are keen on getting through to Superstock and moving on.

“We have to, obviously,” he continues. “You can go out and search for drivers, and we do get approached every year from a few drivers who say, ‘Hey, look, we’re coming’, but I think they come with the intention that they’re going to get in the team straight away, and it’s not the case. You’ve got to earn your place.

“Everyone’s welcome at Kihikihi, 100 per cent. It’s just that for the Superstock team, you’ve got to put your hand up and prove your goods before you get a spot. For those guys that are racing there now, if they go off the boil, there are enough drivers there to put a little bit of heat on them to make sure they’re meeting the requirements from a teams point of view.”

The value of the youth is also identified by Taniwha, who recognises the importance they have in the future of the Kings, but also how important the experience of the veterans plays a part.

“It’s very important [to have a mix]. In some teams, like the Rotorua Rebels, there was a bit of youth, but you need a couple of older heads in there,” he says.

“I think you do need a bit of a mixture. I think I offer a bit of calmness. I don’t say a lot, and I’m pretty relaxed before a meeting. I’ll quite happily have a snooze or stretch out before we hit the track.”

“He gives it 110 per cent; that’s all you can ask,” he says about Rees. “It’s just down to us new guys to hold the team together. We’ve got the young blood in Picard, Nielson and Roigard to fill those voids and perform.

“Obviously, I get a kick in the arse if I don’t perform.”

75K Gavin Taniwha has been a force for the Kings this season. Image: Wayne Drought

The experience of Rees, Taniwha and Vickery is a fundamental asset in this regard, with Picard recognising their influence as a significant benefit to have on hand when he made his debut at Waikaraka Park last month.

“To have Asher, he’s been there and done it back-to-back,” says Picard. “He’s one of the best to be doing it. In those team meetings, Euan’s the manager, but Asher acts like one. He’s got the knowledge, as does Mitch Vickery. You can’t learn from any better people.

“I probably wouldn’t want to do it learning off anyone else. I’m in unreal hands. They’re such good talkers, and they can teach it well. You try to learn from some people, and they don’t really teach you that well, but they’re really good at it.

“Gav’s done that many teams races for that many different teams; he could tell you about different environments and how good it is in the Kings’ environment. He could just about fall asleep before a teams race; he’s done that many.”

Since their return from an extended hiatus, the Kings have two major awards to show for, the first being the Huntly Invitation last year, followed most recently by their victory at Waikaraka Park, which proved the first was no fluke.

However, Taniwha admits luck was on their side at that event when Ethan Rees was looking likely for Gisborne in the final.

“I think at Waikaraka, we were very lucky,” he says. “I don’t think we should overlook the fact that I didn’t see Ethan coming at 100 mph behind me when he snotted me, and that stuffed his battery up, which basically put his car on limp mode, as far as I know. We were really lucky. If that didn’t happen, they would have won easily, and we’d be talking a different story.

“There was a bit more luck, too, because in Auckland Asher could have quite easily landed on his backside with the car not going, but it worked out,” he continues, referencing the superb rollover Rees executed on Gary Lonergan in their second race, which almost also tipped the 1NZ.

Despite their successes, one major trophy escapes the team, with the New Zealand Teams Championship a noticeable blip on the record.

The preparation towards a tilt at that next season has already begun, with the team and drivers using the long off-season as a chance to gear up for the charge.

“We’ve probably been a little bit slack the last couple of years with organisation compared to what we used to be, off the track. Now we’re just looking to regroup, get some new sponsors and get organised,” Means states.

“The hard work starts now, the preparation for next season. A few of the boys are getting new cars, and we’ve highlighted some areas that need to be improved. One of those areas is the gear. If you come up against teams like Gisborne, regardless of how good they are individually, you’ve still got to race as a team. When you look at how good some of their gear is, though, you’re on the back foot; you don’t have that top-of-the-line stuff to roll out with.

“That’s our plan moving forward to ensure these boys have gear up to standard.

“We’ll do a season review in June and have a recap on who’s keen to keep going and carrying it on, which I think most of them are ready to go again.”

Taniwha admits he’s one of those sticking around, preparing for another campaign on the dirt.

“I sort of have to because Euan owns my car,” he laughs. “A lot of it is dependent on himself. If he decides that’s it, then unless someone else gets me a car, I don’t have the budget or funds to own a car myself.

Shane Mellsopp holds off a charging Peter Rees in the final at Waikaraka Park. Image: Wayne Drought

“I appreciate what Euan and Jo Means have done for me. I couldn’t see why I couldn’t continue because I’d just moved house. I’m out in the country now, so it’s certainly a more user-friendly place to have a Stockcar, but I was smack in the middle of Palmy before, with seven different neighbours.

“So now I’ve got that sorted out, I’ve got the space and have a new shed going up. Healthwise, I’m in as good knick as I’ve ever been. I just need to sort my eyesight out a little; it’s starting to catch up with me”

Means also admits he’s hanging around, determined to deliver the club some more silverware.

“It’s a good club; they’re really supportive, so at this stage, there’s not much chance of me doing anything else.”

While not directly commenting on Rees’s future, he does recognise the rumour mill is always turning when it comes to such a calibre of a competitor, somewhat mimicking football’s transfer window deadline day.

“Every year people say Asher’s leaving, just for the sake of it, but this is probably the longest he’s been at a club.”

Picard recognises that joining a successful team has been beneficial towards his development, something which will continue to appeal to the stars of the future and anyone looking to join the club.

“I’m sticking it out with Kihikihi next year. Euan’s given me more opportunities to keep me there and give me more teams racing,” he says. “All I want to do is keep teams racing. I love it.

“When I was in Stratford, I was in the Scrappers, I was named in the wider squad at the start of the season two years ago, but that’s nothing compared to this.

“From doing the team talks before and after the race to discuss how we went, with all the atmosphere that’s around is pretty big, and trying to learn off that is really important.

“Those team talks are just so brutal, and you didn’t think they’d be like that. You’ve got to take in everything. If you get told something like, ‘You’ve got to do four laps, and I want to see where you’re at, if you’re going to be running or blocking’.

“All that knowledge can come in, but it won’t pay off on the track if it comes in one ear and goes out the other. Being in an environment like that is such a good environment.

“Moving forward with the Kings and me, the more teams races I get, the better I’ll get. The goal is going to Palmy. That’s a dream I want to do, and that’s my main goal to get there, but the more teams races I get, the better,” he continues.

“I’m watching millions and millions of videos during the week on how I can get better and asking how I can get better.

“Also, with my car, we went up to Auckland with it, and there were a couple of things we didn’t bring because we didn’t know we had to bring them, like spares and those little bits and pieces. Now we know.”

It should be seen that a significant number of stakeholders have contributed towards the revival of the Kings, with mechanics and sponsors alike having positioned the team in a manner that makes them a force to be reckoned with.

Means identifies the relationship with the Kihikihi Stockcar team as pivotal for the Superstocks, with their crews able to ensure that off-track activities remain harmonious with that on-track.

“With the connection with the Stockcar team, obviously, when the Stockcar team’s racing, the majority of our crew will go and help them, and vice-versa,” the manager states.

“That’s been a really good part of joining the Stockcar to the Superstock team because we get the likes of Dion Henderson, his dad and a few of their friends. There are always a couple of trucks with welding gear.

“We’re very fortunate with what we can do between a race. Apart from blowing a motor up, there’s no way we wouldn’t get a car out, let’s put it that way. We’re probably one of the better-equipped teams between races, and that is super, super important nowadays, especially because the race programs hardly ever go to plan.

“Sometimes you don’t have much time to get back out and get your gear sorted. I would say half of the strength around the Kings is the ability to be able to repair in between races.”

There are also the sponsors, crucial contributors who, quite frankly, without, the team wouldn’t exist. Investors from near and far have provided valuable input to the Kings, none more so than AP Group, who have been naming rights sponsors since the team’s re-birth.

Matt Picard leads the parade as the Kings prepare for war at Waikaraka Park. Image Wayne Drought

“The AP Group have been there from the start, but this was their last year, so we were on the hunt for a naming rights sponsor,” says Means.

“I can tell you now that we’ve got Rawson Plumbing from Te Awamutu, so it’s good to have a local company that’s connected to the Kings that have been with us since year two. Now they’re standing up to become the naming rights sponsor.

“The connection with The Cobb has also always been very important. The most expensive trip we do is the one to Palmy, with accommodation, food, and everything else, so The Cobb is essential to the team as one of the big sponsors. They’ve been with us since about Year 2 and are continuing on.

“Obviously, there’s a real connection with Speedway Garage as well, but there’s a lot of little sponsors in there that help immensely. Every single one is really important.”

With the 2022/23 season not long done but the 2023/24 season just around the corner, it’s hard to overlook the Kihikihi Kings as a genuine contender for some much-deserved success.

A well-balanced synergy between blockers and runners alike paints a picture of promise for the years ahead for the Kihikihi Kings, with a varying degree of racers based on experience and roles set to head to war as soon as the days get longer and warmer and the rain (hopefully) goes away.

Standing in their way, however, remain title-contending teams from across the country, each deserving of their own silverware and feature article in this magazine.

While winter has only just begun, summer can’t come soon enough for the Kihikihi faithful.