It has been a “crazy week” of celebrations for Jamie Duff but his race face is firmly back on.
Last weekend, Duff became the first South Islander to win the New Zealand sprintcar championship since Bruce Hobbs in 1985.
Not content to rest on his laurels, the Canterbury-based driver has already started thinking about stamping his mark on the North Island championships at Western Springs tonight.
Duff concedes that with the new 1nz number, worn by the national champion, on his car there is more pressure on him.
“We definitely want to show that it wasn’t a one-off,” he said.
“I’m not promising a win as it will be really tough but we want to make sure we are competitive and show what we can do.”
The 24-year-old was in sublime form at Arena Manawatu last Saturday night when he won the 25-lap winner-takes-all final but he says the credit should go elsewhere.
“My crew and my family, they all put so much effort into the car there is no way I could do it without them.
“It was them that won the final more than me, the car was set up absolutely perfect.
“A lot of people don’t realise it’s a team sport but it definitely is.”
A big part of that crew is Duff’s father, Stephen, who finished third in the New Zealand champs in 1996.
“I used to look at the photos on the wall from when Dad got third and I never thought that would be me. I didn’t think I would be good enough.”
When Duff first came into the grade the pair raced together but after one season Stephen decided to put all his effort into his son’s car.
The newly-crowned national champion was well aware of the 30-year drought and was desperate to be the driver who broke it but the achievement is still sinking in.
“We’ve just had the sign-writers around today putting the 1nz on the car and that really made it feel real,” Duff said yesterday.
Duff started the final on the outside of the front row next to eventual runner-up, American Ricky Logan, and found the front after just a handful of laps.
“I really wasn’t focused on where I was in the field, I just wanted to get through the lap traffic and hit my markers and stay nice and clean,” Duff said.
When the white flag came out, Duff was well aware of the situation.
“The only thing that was running through my mind was don’t screw this up.”
With a growing fan base throughout the country, the “Duff Man,” as many know him, was surrounded by his crew and family just minutes after taking the chequered flag.
“There was a few tears going around,” Duff said.
Despite living in Rolleston and working out of the family business Concut in Sockburn, Duff does most of his racing at Auckland’s Western Springs to get more competition.
Last year he travelled to America to take on the world’s best and come the winter months he will be heading back for another crack as a national champion but no matter where he races, Duff knows where his allegiances lie.
“This is definitely a South Island victory, we’ll always be from down here.”