Three way tie for top points at Feilding offroad race
– Changing conditions a challenge for 60-strong field
– Northern racers dominate
Three northern racers have raided the trophy cabinet at Feilding, taking top points and dominating the points race in the 2016 championship.
After four hotly contested in-class heats on Saturday Pukekohe UTV racer Carl Ruiterman joined Albany drivers Raana Horan and Mike Fraser balancing on the top step of the podium, each with three wins from four and 70 points in total.
Denying the weather gods, the final northern round of the 2016 Polaris NZ Offroad Racing Championship was held in sunny conditions, only a greasy track surface and a biting wind to remind the competitors of torrential rain that fell on Friday night. The strong winds quickly dried off surface water, meaning the 1.4 km track presented a different challenge to racers at every start. Palmerston North Offroad Racing Club spokesperson Andy Briggs said racing in all classes was close and spectacular, but despite the best efforts of local competitors including Grant ‘Rowdy’ Rosenberg and William van der Wal the northerners were not to be denied.
“Raana Horan stands out for special mention, he is so spectacular and so fast in all conditions. The first heat was very slippery and he was flicking that Nissan Titan around like a rally car. A real crowd-pleaser,” he said. In the greasy conditions of the first heat, the massive V8 trucks of the GT Radial sponsored unlimited truck class were sliding from one side of the track to the other under full power. Horan spun in the closing laps of that race but had built up enough lead that he was able to recover and win.
Horan’s three wins and one second place also sealed his northern region outright title and Saturday’s result propels him into the national final at Twizel over Labour Weekend on maximum points.
Meanwhile the expected challenge from multiple national champion Tony McCall in the unlimited race car class failed to fire. In the first (wet) heat for the big cars a mid-grid start position saw him blasted with mud and rocks by the car in front, clogging his driving goggles and forcing him to stop and the first corner. Then as the track dried out clumps of mud blocked his radiators and the car’s LS7 Chev engine overheated, going into protective ‘limp mode’. McCall had the consolation of posting fastest time of the day, a 1:03.793 in race two.
The unlimited class win went to hard – charging Mike Fraser, like Horan an Albany resident, who took the chequered flag in the first, third and fourth races. Another Aucklander, John Morgan, won the second heat.
In the fast-growing UTV classes, the emerging force of the Yamaha YXZ was dominant. Carl Ruiterman, together with Joel Giddy, have been at the forefront of developing performance modifications for the new high revving Yamaha including an advanced turbocharger array for the three cylinder engine. With defending champion and former rally driver Ben Thomasen unable to use his Polaris turbo and stepping instead into a naturally aspirated Polaris RZR 1000, the Yamaha pair ran away with the S class for modified UTVs, Giddy winning the slippery first heat and then ex-drifter Ruiterman dominating the remaining three. The S class entry was six-strong.
In U class for standard UTVs, Mount Maunganui’s Dyson Delahunty held out class leader Mike Alexander in the opening race, but clipped a tyre barrier in the second race and flipped his naturally aspirated RZR, damaging the front suspension and driveshaft. That race was won by Neil Abbott. Back in the fray after some frenzied pit work, Delahunty was second behind Scott Munro in race three; Delahunty did not finish the final race, Scott Munro making it two wins for the weekend ahead of Dion Edgecombe and Mike Alexander. The U class entry was seven strong and included local Palmerston North driver William van der Wal.
For the first time, the racing was also live streamed on the internet, which Mr Briggs says was very successful.
“This was an experiment for us and the first time live streaming camera technology has been used in the sport in this country. I’m pleased to say the feedback from people who watched the racing has been very positive.”
In a first for the sport, race fans unable to attend were also able to watch a live stream of the event on the internet. Almost 2,000 tuned in online, with most users (89 per cent) from New Zealand and race fans from Australia and the US also watched the coverage.