From pedalling around the mud of the Waiuku dirt track to standing on the podium at Mount Panorama, Chris Holdt encapsulates the Kiwi racing mentality of striving for the top.
A rugby prodigy who grew up in Taranaki before moving up to South Auckland, Holdt has spent the last ten years living in Queensland, where he runs his Prime Motorsport race team.
Last weekend had Holdt travel to the hallowed Bathurst circuit for yet another go at the Six Hour production car endurance race.
Two years before, in his first attempt with his own team, Holdt secured a podium in class E. The day before, he had put his Mazda 3 on pole position for his class.
Unfortunately, this time around, Holdt could not replicate his success from 2019.
Despite showing strong pace in practice and qualifying in their HSV Astra VXR, an intercooler hose blew off when fellow Kiwi Madeline Stewart was behind the wheel.
Holdt and his team lost 15 laps as the Bathurst recovery crew gradually brought the car back to the pitlane.
Repairing the fault, Holdt, Stewart and David Ling reached the chequered flag 35th overall.
Despite not having the opportunity to stand on the podium for a second time, Holdt says finishing the testing endurance race was his sole aim.
“Anytime you can finish a six-hour race is a win,” Holdt told Velocity News. “Winning the race itself is secondary.
“If you can make a production car last for six hours around Bathurst, then that is an achievement itself.
“And if the stars align and you can win your class or the race, that is just a bonus.
“I believe our team, which is mostly Kiwis and a couple token Australians who have tagged along, showed real Kiwi mentality of never giving up. We dug deep and managed to finish the race and did what we set out to do.”
Holdt lived in Taranaki for the first 16 years of his childhood before relocating to Auckland.
While Holdt was introduced to the world of motor racing at a young age, it wasn’t until he was much older that he really begun to build an interest in motorsport.
“My stepdad and step mum were really into Jet Boat racing and speedway. Just about every night, we would go to Stratford Speedway, and that sort of got me into it all.
“I would also go up to Pukekohe and watch touring cars and Tranzams, just seeing what circuit racing was like.
“But it was one day when I was older and walking home from Pukekohe High School that I saw this guy named Garry Berry who worked on his Mk 2 Escort.
“I saw him every day, and eventually I mustered up the courage to go up and talk to him. As it turns out he knew my stepdad, and he let me work on the car.”
After months of working as a junior apprentice to Berry, Holdt was offered the chance to try racing for the first time.
“Garry taught me a lot. He taught me how to prep a race car and fix certain parts. Then one day, he said, ‘do you want to have a drive?’
“So, we entered a Waiuku Hillclimb event in the Escort, and Garry shuffled in alongside me and coached me along the way.
“I eventually ended up buying that car and raced with it in Waiuku for several years before deciding to give racing at Pukekohe a shot.
“I sold up all my dirt cars and brought a turbocharged Honda Integra. I raced it in the All Classic Japanese series and ended up winning the championship.”
Holdt was then contracted by a Queensland rugby team to play over in Australia.
Unfortunately, an injury in his first season put paid to his footy ambitions, leaving Holdt with the opportunity to return to his passion for motor racing.
“After the injury, I spent about a year establishing myself in Queensland.
“I then brought a Mini Sprint car and put myself into the speedway scene. After a bit, I brought a Super Sedan and won the Queensland title.
“But while I enjoyed speedway, it is a type of racing that is very time expensive. You only race one night a week, but you are working on the car for the other six.
“So, I went to Queensland Raceway, checked it out and decided to buy a car and give it a shot.”
Holdt spent his time away from the driver’s seat working with Peter’s Motorsport, a race team that prepares and runs cars for the Touring Car Masters championship.
He was fortunate enough to help build Ryan Hansford A9X Torana and Ryal Harris’ Chevrolet Camaro.
Then, with his own team, Holdt steered a Mazda 3 to the 2019 Australian Production Car championship (APCC) to first in his class, winning all but one round.
However, he says Bathurst was the ultimate goal in mind.
“The whole time we were racing, all we wanted to do was attack Bathurst. It is something everybody dreams of doing one day.
“Doing so in 2019 at the six-hour, with success as well, was just incredible.
“For 2021, we were meant to have Rhys Gould come and join us. However, with the borders closed, he was stuck in New Zealand. So, we got young Madeline in to drive with us.
“While it was a shame we had the problem, getting across the line was another awesome accomplishment.”
Holdt says the goal for the rest of the season is to try and win class C in the APCC and finish inside the top ten in the overall standings.
Away from the race track, he is busy working with arrive-and-drive and lease packages for budding race drivers in the APCC.
But while Australia is now very much home, Holdt added that there is still a desire to one day return to New Zealand and have another crack at racing in his childhood backyard.
“I would love to come back to New Zealand and do an endurance championship there.
“I did one a few years ago in a two-litre Nissan Primera, which was one of the biggest highlights for me.
“But for sure, I would one day love to get back over there and have another go.”