SPEEDWAY SOLOS: Zane Keleher has raced to an impressive victory in the 500cc solo bikes at the Tamworth Speedway as he ramps up his quest to qualify for the Australian championships.
The Rockhampton rider has committed to a demanding race schedule in a bid to accumulate the results needed to qualify for the national events, the first round of which will be held in January.
Keleher's weekend win at Tamworth earned him a valuable 21 points and he is back in action again this weekend in the Speedway Teams Challenge at Maryborough, where he will ride for North Queensland.
The 24-year-old is a man on a mission, with his ultimate goal to break into the professional ranks, and he believes that qualifying for the Australian titles will go a long way to achieving that.
"If I get to the national level, I'm pretty confident that opportunities should start opening up internationally,” he said.
"Until then, I'm clocking up the kilometres to get to as many events as I can to get as many points and as much experience as I can.
"It was a good win at the weekend. I've got the teams challenge in Maryborough this weekend and then I'm off to Kurri Kurri near Newcastle the following weekend so hopefully I can just keep it going.
"I've got some big races in October and November and in December the New South Wales and Queensland state titles.”
Keleher is fully committed to his sport and has spent $15,000 on a new race bike which boasts a revolutionary new engine with state-of-the-art features.
"I see it as an investment in my future and really hope that it pays off,” he said.
"I'm really excited to try it out, it's only the second one in Australia.
"It's completely different to what I've got so I just can't go out and race it. I'm hoping to get some practice on it in the next few weeks.”
Keleher has had a good couple of months on the track, claiming a win at Ipswich and last month beating experienced former professional rider Kozza Smith to win the last round of the State of Origin series at the speedway spectacular in Rockhampton.
Keleher has fast made a mark in the sport that he took up in 2015 after previously racing motocross for 15 years.
He remembers how as a spectator he was enthralled by a 500cc solos event at a Rockhampton speedway meeting in July of that year.
"A month later, they had a coaching and practice event and that was my first ride on a speedway bike and I just loved it.
"I'd always been a bit of a thrill-seeker and always liked trying different things.
"I love my motorbikes so it was natural for me.”
Having said that, Keleher says racing motocross and speedway are very different and he had to effectively "start from scratch” when he made the transition.
"There's not much that translates between the two so it was a big learning curve - and a fast one.
"The biggest difference is that a race in motocross is 30 minutes long and if you make a mistake you can generally make it up.
"With speedway, it's just one minute and if you make a mistake it's all over. It's all or nothing and you have to be on 100% to win.”
Keleher said there were three areas that were key to success on the track.
"Probably the biggest one is the bike preparation. You spend a lot of time the week before a race getting the bike set up and making sure everything's ready to go.
"Second to that is the training involved. A lot of people don't realise how physically hard it is to ride. I do regular gym work three days a week and mountain biking for my cardio fitness.
"And the third one would be trying to cover all your costs and attract sponsorship.”
Keleher is looking for sponsorship and marketing partnerships. He can be contacted through his Facebook page, Zane Keleher #Z22.