Prison stint 'wake-up call' for ex-boy racer

Former boy racer Ben Olsen (21) has turned his life around after amassing $35,000 in court fines and spending several months on remand in prison. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Former boy racer Ben Olsen (21) has turned his life around after amassing $35,000 in court fines and spending several months on remand in prison. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
After amassing $35,000 in court fines and spending two months behind bars, a former boy racer is giving up the doughnuts and going straight.

Ben Olsen has not driven his beloved Nissan Skyline for a month, a far cry from the self-confessed car nut who tried to flee police when driving while disqualified.

''It was basically a dumb idea. I thought if I get stopped I'm off to jail ... so I tried to get away.''

That incident and a history of driving-related offences resulted in him being sent to the Otago Corrections Facility for two months.

As a remand prisoner, he spent 23 hours a day locked in his cell and, when released on home detention, the 21-year-old dairy farm worker had a major rethink about his future.

''I just thought, what is the point in driving up and down the street looking at each other?

''Some say they are car enthusiasts, but only some of them are. Most are just [doing it] to rebel against the police.''

The Big Cruise drag train, which Mr Olsen organised in 2012. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Big Cruise drag train, which Mr Olsen organised in 2012. Photo by Craig Baxter.
From the age of 15, Mr Olsen and his mates used to drive from Milton to Dunedin about 5pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before returning home about 12 hours later.

Those late-night/early-morning trips would be made in old Japanese cars, all sporting new rims and with their springs cut ''to lower them and make them look better''.

However, those cars, complete with passengers who contributed to fuel costs, made him easy for police to spot. He had only a learner's licence, so each police stop cost him $1000 in fines, and when those fines topped $5000 he stopped counting - or caring.

His court fines, which once totalled $35,000, had now been paid off following community work, a scheme which he supported.

His change in outlook was inspired in part by a meeting with Dunedin businessman Nik Black, of tuning and performance workshop Apet, two years ago.

Mr Olsen had tried to enlist Mr Black's support for the Big Cruise mass drag train, which he organised in 2012. That event, which was incident-free, attracted hundreds of boy racers from around the South Island. Mr Black had not wanted to take part in a boy-racer event, because he supported legal track racing.

Now, the pair hoped to organise a gymkhana, a low-speed drift track competition in the Dunedin wharf area.

Mr Olsen will meet Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull to discuss the proposal, and the pair are confident of getting the support of the Otago Sports Car Club, of which Mr Black is a member.

Mr Olsen said his boy-racer days were behind him.

''I have had my wake-up call.''

 

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