Dream come true for Rocky speedway rider
500CC SOLOS: When Zane Keleher raced into third place at the 2018 Queensland solo championships at the weekend he realised a dream.
The podium finish secured the Rockhampton racer an elite sportsperson visa which will allow him to race internationally in 2019.
It's a goal Keleher set his sights on when he took up the adrenalin-pumping sport three years ago and he's achieved it earlier than expected.
"I'm pretty happy,” he said. "It's a dream come true, finally.
"I did set a five-year plan to be racing professionally so I'm two years ahead of schedule which feels great.
"Coming third on Saturday was a huge relief, to be honest. Obviously you want to win but the top three got the visas and that's what I was after.
"To finish top three against a quality, internationally experienced line-up was fantastic and it's good to know that I can run with and beat some of the best.”
Keleher finished behind Hugh Skidmore and Mason Campton in the final of what he said was one of the most keenly contested championships in many years.
With only the top four from 2017 seeded into this year's event, there were 12 spots up for grabs through Friday night's qualifier.
Keleher was one of 26 riders from Queensland and New South Wales who had to battle it out for a start in the main event.
He made an almost perfect start, scoring 11 points from a possible 12 in qualifying.
He performed equally as well in the next stage, and went on to win his semi to get the second gate pick for the final.
"The final was fiercely close and competitive. There weren't many passing opportunities and it came down to the start and making no mistakes,” he said.
"I was quietly confident going into the event. I knew I had done the hard work this year and was well prepared.”
Keleher said he had really "put the foot down” on his preparations this year, and had seen vast improvement.
He had gleaned valuable knowledge from his coach, three-time speedway world champion Jason Crump, and sponsor Sonny Reed had offered incredible financial and moral support.
Keleher travelled far and wide to get as many race events under his belt as possible. This year, he covered 35,000km to attend race meets from Cairns to Perth and everywhere in between.
He will now start talking contracts with overseas clubs to shore up a deal before the start of the race season in March.