- Pukekohe’s Ruiterman victorious once more in northern title fight
- Yamahas dominate at Palmerston North
- “Now for the championship”
Going wheel to wheel with factory racers and the fastest private teams, Pukekohe driver Carl Ruiterman has taken back to back offroad racing titles and is now planning a marathon drive south to compete for the overall New Zealand title.
Driving his Yamaha YXZ turbo ‘side by side’ (UTV) race car, and up against the quickest drivers in the sport, former drift star Ruiterman amassed a commanding lead over the first and second northern rounds of the championship.
He arrived at last month’s final round at Feilding in the Manawatu facing a six-car grid and needing to hold off Joel Giddy in a similar Yamaha and the factory Polaris racer, Ben Thomasen of Mount Maunganui.
Side by side or UTV race cars are the rising class in offroad racing, with more than 35 standard and modified cars registered nationally.
On a 1.4 km ‘short course’ track made greasy by heavy overnight rain, Ruiterman and Giddy dominated the first of four heats, Giddy taking the first win but Ruiterman posting fastest lap, a 1:08.731.
Ben Thomasen had been forced to go back to a 2015-spec naturally aspirated Polaris by a recall that affected his RZR 1000 Turbo, and was third at the flag.
With a strong westerly wind buffeting the track, the surface dried out throughout the day, meaning every heat presented drivers with a different surface.
In the second heat Ruiterman grabbed the lead going into the first corner and made sure of the win, resetting the class lap record to 1:06.665.
“As the day went on the surface gave more and more grip. Joel chased me harder and harder and Ben stayed in touch but our turbo cars were clearly quicker,” he said.
The third heat offered more of the same, Ruiterman winning and chipping a further margin off the lap record with a 1:06.654. Giddy was second, Thomasen third and Paeroa privateer Mike Small – switching from Polaris to Yamaha for this round – fourth.
The final race of the day was critical, the last chance to bank points for the title. Ruiterman needed to finish ahead of Giddy. The greater risk was in the race format – run as an all-in with other classes, Ruiterman was worried he could get caught up in other in-class battles.
“We really had to race our own race and at the same time watch the mirrors to see who else was coming through fast,” he said.
Letting three charging unlimited class race cars fight it out for the chequered flag, Ruiterman in his E&H Motors/Gull Fuels Yamaha was fourth overall, Joel Giddy eighth overall and Mike Small 14th overall making the S class podium an all-Yamaha affair.
His performance also nets him the northern region outright title for the second year running.
Carl Ruiterman now takes maximum points and a 20 point bonus to the final round of the 2016 Polaris New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship, to be held at Twizel over two days at Labour Weekend.