Pukekohe’s Rich Abbott does most things in his life at pace.  Grant Dixon meets a builder who has a need for speed…

Whether it was buying his first home, establishing his own business, or enjoying a range of motorsports, Richard’s motto has always been ‘the quicker the better’.

Rich currently competes on a Kawasaki KXF 450
Rich currently competes on a Kawasaki KXF 450

Growing up on a Hunua deer farm, Rich served his building apprenticeship under Ken Tebbutt at Villa Homes, qualifying just before the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit. At 19, Rich had his own home in Auckland’s Wattle Downs, and despite the difficult financial times, struck out on his own, establishing Building Lifestyles, a company that specialised in renovations. The company name was a portent of things to come. “Owning my own company gave me a bit more freedom. When you are working for someone else you are responsible to them for your time. Being my own boss gave me the flexibility to pursue my interests,” Rich says. Growing up, Rich confessed to owning ‘boy racer’ vehicles, but that was the extent of his petrolhead instincts “other than a hankering for fast cars I couldn’t afford!” But that soon changed. “I bought a second-hand Honda CRF 450 moto-cross bike in 2006 and began casual trail rides with my mates – nothing serious at first,” says Rich. Two years later the Honda was upgraded to a KTM 350 and he dipped his toes into the competitive scene with the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club, thoroughly enjoying the fasterpaced action.

“I did lots of club rounds and did okay, winning a couple as I improved, and then gave the Nationals a shot – but that was another level again!” In the last couple of years he has ridden a Kawasaki KXF 450, on which he has enjoyed further success at club level. Last year Rich played a bigger part in the club, serving on the committee and helping with things like track preparation. At the back of his mind was putting something back into the sport, as well as paving the way for four-year-old son Kayden’s growing passion for two-wheel thrills and spills: “He rides a Yamaha Pee Wee 50cc and buzzes around the kids’ track.” On their Pukekohe lifestyle property, which is also the base for Rich and wife Ana’s Sentinel Homes franchise, Rich has built his own moto-cross track, making the most of the hilly terrain. In more recent times Rich’s attention turned to Targa rallying, first as a volunteer on timekeeping duties and then as a driver in the Targa Tour section, which is limited to a top speed of 160kph. His first drive was in his work vehicle, a Ford Ranger utility, in which he did well, surprising some of the other competitors in their far more salubrious (and more powerful) Porsches and Aston Martins.

Rich's latest toy is a 2008 Audi RS4
Rich’s latest toy is a 2008 Audi RS4

This year he went ‘Full Monty’ purchasing a 2008 Audi RS4, which is stock-standard other than a Miltech exhaust system. “Targa rallying, especially the Tour section, is not expensive, although some competitors are running cars worth over $300,000. “What I love about it is you get to go fast on closed roads, putting the cars through their paces in situations they were designed for,” explains Rich.

Son Kayden and daughter Baylee are following in Dad's footsteps
Son Kayden and daughter Baylee are following in Dad’s footsteps


For the Tour section, drivers have helmet protection but use only conventional seat belts, although Rich has learned a trick or two about strapping himself in for maximum support against the G forces. He says he has ambitions to own a track car one day, to race on nearby Pukekohe Raceway and similar circuits, but that might be a little way off yet as there are big bucks involved. In the immediate future, Rich is planning to do more cross-country riding, as opposed to moto-cross. These are three or four hour rides “in a straight line, across unknown territory” and Rich has in his sights a tilt at the cross-country Nationals. And there is also his mountain bike, on which he loves the thrill and challenges of going downhill fast. His favourite ride is known as the ‘440,’ a particularly quick ride near Kaiwaka. “Motocross is my winter sport, with downhill mountain biking kept for the summer,” says Rich. Rich’s love of speed is not always shared by his wife Ana, although she is “getting better,” says Rich. “Ana can’t watch and does not find it as relaxing as I do, although this is changing and I may even get her in the Audi for a spin at an upcoming track day. It has taken her a while to come to terms with Kayden’s efforts on the kids’ track, and she now accepts it is not as dangerous as she first thought.” With their two-year-old daughter Baylee showing all the signs of following in her dad and brother’s footsteps, for Ana it might be a case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!’

Rich latest interest is Targa rallying, where he competes in the Tour section
Rich latest interest is Targa rallying, where he
competes in the Tour section