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Competitor Profile: Denis Ireland

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Otagos most successful motorsport sportsman is opening a million-dollar vehicle supply company in Dunedin.

Dennis Ireland has maintained his motorcycle road-racing links by taking on a Kawasaki dealership in his Ward St premises, Special Purposes Vehicles (SPV) Ltd.

However, he also has more than $1 million worth of vehicles for hire, ranging from trucks and jet skis to concrete mixer trucks, trailers and diggers.

"We are considering having anything that moves for hire or lease," Mr Ireland (49) said.

He left Dunedin in 1976 to pursue a motorcycle road-racing career in Europe, which offered more financial opportunities than New Zealand.

In 1978, Mr Ireland hit the headlines for the first time by winning the Race of Aces in England, beating then world champion Barry Sheene by 4sec. A year later, Mr Ireland was voted New Zealand motorcycle sportsman of the year.

During two decades of mainly European events, he raced beside - and sometimes beat - some of the greats in motorcycle racing. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1979 and the 1982 Isle of Man TT feature event, plus a brace of impressive placings from around the highly competitive European circuit.

However, in 1979 after winning the grand prix, while contracted to the Suzuki Great Britain team, a publicity photo-shoot went "wildly wrong" and he crashed his motorcycle into a concrete post.

He spent five months in hospital and had 11 operations on his leg, ankle, foot, and tendons.

While in hospital, he met his future wife, Angela, a nurse. The couple now have three teenage daughters.

Weeks after the birth of his first daughter, Mr Ireland retired and became involved in the heavy commercial transport industry in England. He returned to Dunedin with his family more than 18 months ago - with 10 imported trucks of varying sizes.

"We always wanted to return home it just took a little longer than anticipated," he said.

Part of the business plan included a Kawasaki service truck which would travel to motocross meetings and a pending sponsorship announcement of a 600cc road-racing motorcyclist in New Zealand.

Mr Ireland expected the business to be fully operational within three months, and to employ about 10 staff.

Information provided by Simon Hartley – July 2004

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