When you have Number 1 on your race car, you start every race as the absolute favourite to win. Certainly the racer to beat. This season, #1 Dan Fisher has proven that racing hard and clean pays off. The Class 1 battle has raged all season long between #110 Alex Bright, #173 Nevil Basalaj and #1 Dan Fisher. At every South Island Championship event they lined up and “did Battle”. The resulting carnage saw his rivals crashing out of contention or destroying their chances as vital components succumbed to the massive torque with punishing impacts and blew apart.
It takes a favourable combination of variables to gain that #1 status. First you need to remain calm under pressure. At high speeds reached in the forestry during an enduro the trees blasting past are just a blur. But that blur could really ruin your championship. Its enough to get the blood pressure raging and for poor decision making to rule. Secondly you need a race car that has been prepped to an extreme point. Not only does it have to look good, but every aspect has to be “bullet-proof” from the pedal assembly through to the bead-locked rims. And thirdly #1 is only possible if the racer has a trusted and experienced team that shares the same goal. Having all of these things will help attain the coveted number 1 status, but then there’s the Chaos Principle rolling the dice at every race.
At the Mainland Challenge the Chaos Principle was well and truly in the air well before the event got under way. With a weather Bomb making a direct hit on Christchurch and the surrounding plains. Flash floods raged across farmland and forced evacuations and shallow riverbeds became raging torrents. In the middle of this destruction the West Melton race track of the Canterbury Offroad Racing Club took the hits and survived the onslaught in good fashion. On race day the Shortcourse track was in good shape, albeit a bit greasy and with standing water in a few places. A reasonable part of Enduro track had been excavated by the fast flowing Waimakariri river, causing a diversion to be pushed through the forest to get the tack fit for Sundays 250km Enduro.
For the Race Teams that made the long drive across the South Island to race the unknown conditions they all faced became apparent during the week as the rain intensified and the news of washed out towns and impassible roads became the lead story on news channels across the country. but still they came. Undeterred #333 Brendon Old, #S43 Brian Rutgers and #810 Arlene Frost all kept coming, crossing Cook Straight and on to Christchurch hoping everything would work out for them. And it did work out. #333 Brendon Old put in another flawless championship performance which could well be enough to grab the National Title. #810 Arlene Frost got the ultimate Offroad Racing Driving test with veteran racer Kevin Cooper in the passenger seat giving confidence to this rookie racer. #S43 Brian Rutgers stepped into one of the largest UTV fields of the day and fought hard during the Shortcourse racing to qualify 2nd on the road for Sundays enduro.
The Enduro started in good conditions on Sunday morning. Pole sitter #1 Dan Fisher was quick to let #S43 Brian Rutgers take over the lead. Letting the very fast Rutgers get the front running proved a good strategy. This gave Fisher a pathfinder on the first lap and reduced race pressure. towards the end of the first lap fisher resumed the lead.
By lap 3 a hard charging #173 Nevil Basalaj (lap record) had forced his way through the field and was quick to take the lead. Again, Fisher relinquished the lead. Keeping close contact with the now trailblazing Basalaj, Fisher was soon handed back the lead when Basalaj’s axle exploded, forcing his retirement. After lap 3 Fisher was unchallenged and went on to take the chequered flag.
#S43 Brian Rutgers crossed the line in second place, 5 minutes later. #333 Brendon Old came home in third place.
The ORANZ South Island part of the 2021 JG CIVIL New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship is complete with three rounds of competition. Now the Southerners will wait for the National Final to be held Labour Weekend in Otago to find out which competitors will become NZ Title holders. In the meantime National Championship Offroad Racing continues with two North Island Championship rounds to be completed, round 2 is the 22nd August Woodhill 100, as well as the NZ Enduro Champs in Nelson on 16-18 July and the NZ Shortcourse Champs in Taranaki on 7 August.