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Meet Hayden Rau: Business owner/speed freak

During the working week, Hayden Rau of Sentinel Homes Wellington and Kapiti can be seeing tootling around in his branded car. But underneath all that polite driving and professional polish? He’s a card-carrying petrol-head.

Since 2010, Hayden and his good friend Mike have been tackling the corners and straights of the Targa NZ – a road race series.

While Hayden and his wife Kylie have always loved cars, it wasn’t until Mike bought a race-worthy car that Hayden really started to drive his passion forward. He and Mike spent a few incredible years driving in the Targa Tour, designed for hobbyists, or as Hayden describes them, “gentlemen racers.”

From the Targa website: The Targa Tour was created to allow people to drive their road registered cars through closed roads, in a safe, structured environment and in a manner and speed not allowed on the open road.

“It’s the thrill of it. I’ve always been into speed. I like skiing for the same reason – although I’m not all that good at it!”

Muscle car Mustang

Hayden’s current race car is all grunty power with a 4.6 litre V8, Quad Cam 32 valve, going from 0-100 kph in 5.9 seconds. It does the standing ¼ mile in 13.99 seconds at 163 kilometres per hour.

It’s been lowered on adjustable Tokico shocks and springs with Prothane bushes, and rolls on semi-slick race tires with modified/tightened Limited slip differential. A Momo detachable steering wheel, adjustable Panhard rod rear-end and a 5-speed manual transmission with heavy-duty race clutch keeps things on track.

With all those performance tweaks it’s good to know that it’s also equipped with a RaceFX roll cage, Racetech RH4000 race seats and Racetech 6-point harnesses. Wilwood 2-piece, 6-piston front brakes with braided brake lines and brake ducting/cooling, and Cobra rear brakes let Hayden glide around corners.

The muscle car also has no traction control or electronic aids, but it’s that ‘old-school’ rawness that makes Hayden love driving it so much.

“It’s a bit of a challenge. You’re going pretty quickly on winding roads, and it’s so big and heavy, it’s not the easiest thing to drive. You’ve got to know what you’re doing to get the best out of it,” he explains.

It’s not just the car that’s spec’d out – Mike and Hayden also need full racing suits, complete with fire-proof underwear.

“It’s not that cool in summer. You’re wearing a three-layer race suit, balaclava, helmet, boots, the whole lot. So it can get pretty warm.”

Getting serious about racing

Hayden’s persistence and obvious business and organisational skills didn’t go unnoticed by the Targa organisers. It wasn’t long before he leaped from competitor to volunteer in different areas of each event.

“We hung around and they gave us a job,” laugh Hayden. “We’ve been a mid-point car, which helps marshal people and make sure the driving’s up to scratch.”

Later, the Targa team brought Hayden and Mike on as the Zero or double Zero car, which drives ahead of competitors to make sure the road is clear.

“We go through flat out – you have to do it in a competition car, with all the same safety gear and equipment, going up to 200 kilometres an hour. So, you have to be on your game. The first rule of being a Zero car is: don’t crash.”

Recently, the team stepped in last minute as the tour leader, which sets the pace for the tour participents.

“My car is equipped to do all the different roles, so we can help out where they need us,” says Hayden. “We go wherever Targa need us.”

Despite all the volunteering hours Hayden contributes to the events, he says that the gratitude actually flows the other way.

“We’re so appreciative of the opportunity that Targa NZ have given us to participate. It’s such a great series – more people should be involved in it.”

A family sport

While it’s always Hayden in the driver’s seat, he wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of his sons got into racing too. Charlie, his youngest at fourteen, comes along on track racing days kitted up in his own race gear, and brushes off the heart-stopping speed as ‘pretty cool’.

“If they want to get into it, I’ll teach them how to drive properly – but it’ll be in their own car, not mine!” says Hayden.

That family feeling extends through to Hayden’s work – Kylie is the co-owner of their Sentinel franchise, and heavily involved in its day-to-day operations.

Taking Sentinel on the road

Hayden’s Mustang is proudly branded in Sentinel logos – combining his two passions.

After building a few spec houses for themselves, Hayden and Kylie knew that construction was the next big stage of their life.

“We’ve had Sentinel Homes Wellington & Kapiti for about four years and employ eight staff,”

They wanted to join the Sentinel Homes family because they knew it would mean they could offer better, more consistent service and outcomes. The values of the group really appealed to Hayden too – he could see this was a bunch of businesspeople who wanted to work together to do what’s best for customers.

“If I’ve got an issue, I’ll ring one of the others and talk about it. It’s good to bounce questions around – you just wouldn’t get that from a stand-alone. We can also lean on Stu and Guy’s experience – they’ve been in this industry for a long time.”

Thinking of building in the Wellington or Kapiti region? Give Hayden a call – if you’re lucky, he might even give you a ride in the Mustang.

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