FIVE RACERS SHARE THE LEAD – Story and Photos by Mark Baker
After a long, dusty day of racing and several rollovers and crashes, five drivers share the lead in the New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship.
Vince Harvey, Wayne Moriarty, Roger McKay, Brett Granger and defending champion Hamish Lawlor all took top points in their respective classes across four heats of action-packed short course racing on the glacial moraine loam of the Twizel course.
Harvey’s run to the class one lead was a dominant one, the Christchurch driver taking his big Ryan Nissan V6 turbo single seater to four wins from four starts against a field of five top unlimited class cars. His off-season rebuild programme has included extensive work on both the engine and transmission of his car.
Wayne Moriarty, also of Christchurch and the defending class 3 champion, was likewise the man to beat in the five-strong class 3 field. He was using his Euroblast Cougar Toyota, which is up for sale as he prepares his new US-built Alumicraft Toyota for local conditions. The Cougar took Moriarty to four wins from four starts, though he finished one heat with broken steering.
Roger McKay of Invercargill won all four heats for the class 6 Challenge trucks, his V8 Nissan Safari proving too quick for Michael Holmes’ Toyota. McKay carried out a devastating high speed overtake on the front straight of the course in one heat where Holmes had grabbed an early advantage. Like Harvey and Moriarty, McKay took home a full 72 points.
Continuing the run of wins for Christchurch drivers, Brett Granger brought out his extensively upgraded class 9 Baja race car to win four heats and take maximum points.
Hamish Lawlor was the only class 10 entry in the event but attacked his heats with his customary aggression. Because his car was a lone entry, he raced with the Challenger VW cars in the early heats but was then brought into the class 3 heats alongside Wayne Moriarty, Carl Gardiner and others due to the speed disparity between his Suzuki Hayabusa engined race car and the VW-engined Challengers.
Rollovers in the thick dust occurred at turn one, where a rough area dug out mid-corner and tipped Andrew Johnstone in his class five car and the Nissan Terrano V6 of Simon Smith. There were no injuries and both vehicles were recovered intact, though Smith’s was dented around the passenger cabin from its crash.
In Kiwitrucks, Brooke Storer ran out the winner ahead of sister Jorja, the pair taking an early championship lead over the northern youth-category racers who will not take to the track until the end of April.