Tony McCall is passed by Malcom Langley as Langley lines up his first Class 1 win for 2014 Pic copyright Mike Peffers 2014
Drivers banged wheels in spectacular fashion as the 2014 offroad racing national championship got underway in fielding on Sunday, with Whakatane’s Malcolm Langley scoring a hard-fought fastest time of the day in competition for the ‘unlimited’ premium-class race cars.Though he eventually finished second in class, Langley also satisfied a long held ambition to beat his arch-rival Tony McCall in a flag to flag duel between his Mitsubishi Evo-powered car and McCall’s BSL Terra Chev, a classic battle between turbocharged four cylinder power and the massive torque of a V8 Chev LS1 engine.
Palmerston North Off Road Club’s track had been graded and the jumps modified specially for the event and tens of thousands of litres of water had been pumped onto the track in the days before the racing, though the hot dry conditions ensured dust was an issue as the day went on and the all-in feature race was abandoned on safety grounds.
Class one for open-wheel race cars was a hard-fought battle with Malcolm Langley shouldering Tony McCall aside mid-corner to win the first heat and McCall fighting back to turn the tables in the next heat and again in the final heat of the day. Manukau-based McCall leads the class with 52 points, Langley close behind on 50 and Gregg Carrington-Hogg third in his Shores Chev on 39. Eight of the spectacular unlimited-class cars contested the first round.
The class nine cars – Baja bug and production-silhouette racers – were run in the same heats as class one. Maurice Bain was the only class nine entry and cruised to a maximum points tally of 52 with three unchallenged finishes.
In class three for 1.6-litre race cars Hawkes Bay’s Dean Graham, making a step up from the 1.3-litre class five cars he has campaigned for many years, scored a clean sweep of wins.
Wellington driver Alistair Manning likewise dominated class five with three wins and maximum points of 54 ahead of Taine Carrington and Nick Magness.
Class seven, long regarded the sport’s entry class, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over recent championship seasons. Four class seven race cars entered the event, with rising star Dyson Delahunty of Mount Maunganui taking three wins from three starts to score maximum points.
In the seven-strong Challenger VW class, Wayne Rowe took two wins but was unable to match the consistency of Peter May, who put together three second placings and a win to take top points in the class. May and Campbell Witheford were the only racers who completed all three heats, which elevated Witheford to second at the end of the day’s racing.
In the truck classes, Wellington’s Justin Leonard emerged the winner of the unlimited class 8 field in his American-built rear wheel drive Chev truck with wins in the second and third heats and third place in the first, which was won by local racer Martin van der Wal. Rotorua driver Mike Cox was third in his Prolite Toyota Chev. Leonard and van der Wal shared top points on 50.
The class four field for improved sport trucks saw a pitched battle between Te Puke’s Rex Croskery and Wellington racer GlennTurvey, both in Toyota Hiluxes. Croskery won the first heat, Turvey the next two but a DNF in heat one cost Turvey valuable points and allowed Croskery to take the class win and 50 points.
There were no production class truck entries.
Ben Thomasen of Tauranga was the clear winner in the new UTV class, taking three wins and a maximum 54 points ahead of Paeroa’s Mike Small who had been forced to run a borrowed Polaris 900 after his new 1000 RZR had mechanical issues just days out from the event. Tony Radisich was third.
The youth classes for “J” and “M” class Kiwitrucks were won by Marcus Runciman (J) and Fergus Crabb (M).
Fastest time of the day fell to Whakatane’s Malcolm Langley in his Bakersfield-designed Evo single-seater class one car with a 1:07.699 for the 1.35 km course.