Local racer Nick Hall has taken control of the 2018 ORANZ New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship after round two at Puhinui in Manukau on April 21.
He won all four heats for the unlimited-class trucks, racing to the win on a track that improved from moly-grease slimy in the morning to dusty in the afternoon. The Vertex Oils Pro-lite is only rear wheel drive where many of his rivals have four wheel dirve, and its Chev LS1 produces less power than other class eight trucks, but Hall’s smooth driving style and almost uncanny tactical acumen were enough to see him dominate every heat.
In the increasingly popular UTV (side by side) classes, defending champion Ben Thomasen of Tauranga battled vehicle issues in his Polaris and became embroiled in tough battles in his heats, trailing Wainui’s Joel Giddy home in the JG Civil S class.
Hall, Jack Hellier (Karaka), and Tony McCall (Manukau) all maintained the in-class points domination they carried into the round but the latter two did not manage perfect clean sweeps of their classes.
Where Hall slid his Chevrolet V8 powered Toyota Hilux past all opposition, teen racer Hellier went out in his third of four heats with a blown engine and McCall survived a 160 km/h spin in the braking zone at the end of the back straight that flung his car high into the air, but was out in the final heat when his engine lost all its cooling water.
Hall’s battle against his all-wheel drive rivals in 4WD Bits class 8 became easier when Whakatane driver Malcolm Langley went out at the end of the first heat, his Chev truck having destroyed its transmission.
“We’ll take the truck home and pull it out, see what broke – but that was a fresh trans so it’s only done about five km,” Langley said.
In the other ‘truck’ classes, Rob Cresswell (Nissan Navara) and Chris Trundle (Nissan Safari diesel) took the honours and formed the event’s unofficial ‘Club 72’ – the only racers to have taken a maximum 72 points on the day.
It is the first time the national championship has used the new 1.2 km course, purpose-built by Counties-Manukau Offroad Racing Club over a period of six years, with many racers excited by its fast straights, flowing corners and use of watercourse crossings to create spectacular jumps.
Hall now carries his advantage through to the third and final northern round of the championship, the 2018 Woodhill 100 in early June.
There was no easy ride for defending champion Ben Thomasen, with the top five in the JG Civil UTV S class all pushing hard for wins and points. Wainui’s Joel Giddy had chased Thomasen hard at the opening round in Taranaki and carried the class points lead coming into this round; he then put in a masterful run through the four heats, winning two and taking two second placings to win the class for the day ahead of Hayden MacKenzie, who has developed his Yamaha in the off-season and is shaping up to be a contender for the class or even outright title.
MacKenzie was fourth, first and second in the first three heats but tore off a wheel in the final race and limped home fifth in class for that heat. Third in class – surviving a dramatic two-wheel moment at the hairpin – was Nathan Moore in MacKenzie’s previous racer, a Polaris RZR.
The same was true in JG Civil UTV U class for standard side-by-sides. Pukekohe’s Carl Ruiterman has emerged class leader after fighting off the attentions of Tauranga teen Dyson Delahunty, the weekend win made sweeter by a six second margin between the pair in the final heat. Ruiterman finished the weekend just two points shy of Hall to be second in the championship.
Jarrod Marwood is shaping as the driver to beat in class three for cars with engines up to 1.6 litres. After a pitched battle with round one class winner Brendon Old, Marwood amassed three wins and a second place to take 70 points for the weekend and lead class three for the series.
Class five is for cars with engines up to 1.3-litres and has been dominated in recent years by cars using the high revving Suzuki Swift twin cam engine. There were three entries for the class, but on the day Regan Swensson was unable to take the start, leaving Todd Graham and Nick Magness to fight for wins and points. Graham took the win in the opening heat, when grip was minimal on the farm course, but was unable to capitalise on the early advantage, Magness taking the following three heats. Graham took fastest time of the day for class five, a 1:10.692 in that first heat.
In class seven for cars with air-cooled VW engines up to 1.2-litre or Toyota 1.0-litre ‘waterpumpers’ Jack Hellier emerged the winner despite blowing his engine in the third heat. He won the first three heats; rival Connor Nicklin went out in heat one.
Fresh talent in Challenger class – Mark Goldstone made his offroad racing debut last year and dominated the Challenger VW class on the day, though it didn’t start well, the Goldstone car crossing the line in fifth place in heat one and struggling in the low-grip conditions. That first heat was won by seasoned racer Geoff Matich with Karl Burbage second and Ash Carlyle third.
Goldstone took out the second and third heats, setting the class record in the process: 1:04.539.
Sam Atkins won class ten for motorcycle-engined race cars but did not contest the final heat.
In the youth Kiwitrucks category sponsored by Crabb Racing, Lincoln Whiddett looked set to dominate J class until he blew his engine in the fourth heat. Class honours went to Andre England in J class, Harry Hodgson in class M (motorcycle engine/gearbox), and Tyler King in K class.