North vs south is the grudge-match agenda this weekend as Aucklander Ernie Hogg brings The General – his Scorpion Chev two-seater V8 unlimited class racer – to Nelson to go up against the proven Jimco Chev V6 of local racer Nevil Basalaj.
At stake is the biggest prize in the 2014 calendar – the New Zealand Endurance Racing Championship title. The biggest endurance race in New Zealand offroad racing’s 2014 calendar is a matter of days away. It is a 500 km race run over two days – 250 km a day – on a fast and challenging forest course at Dovedale, southwest of the South Island city.
The pair met at the Twizel 250 earlier this year, but Hogg found his tyres short on grip as he tried to go wheel to wheel with the Basalaj Jimco.
Hogg’s Wilco Racing Team – one of the most professional in the sport – have completely rebuilt the Scorpion ready for the challenge and head south from Auckland mid-week.
Twizel 250 winner Basalaj meanwhile has been getting his car rebuilt in Christchurch after rolling it at a southern championship round.
In total, six of New Zealand’s fastest unlimited-class cars have entered the event with three North Island and three South Island teams ready to do battle.
Half-rally stage and half-extreme race event, the race is a stand-alone title in the sport. It runs every two years, alternating with the Taupo 1000, and is sponsored this year by Total Oil. Organisers of the Nelson event say recent storms have not affected the venue’s 42 km lap significantly though there have been fallen trees to clear.
Spokesperson Darrin Thomason says the course is equally suited to race cars and trucks and switches seamlessly between high speed logging highways and ‘skid’ roads through established pine forest.
“The race start will be two-side on a big fast arterial road built for the logging crews and the next five kilometres continues in that style, allowing drivers to get sorted before diving into the trickier tracks. We have created a lap that builds on the course we plotted last time and has something to challenge every driver,” said Thomasen.
Spectators will have a range of viewing areas around the start-finish and pits and can also see the cars where they power through a water splash to return to the start-finish area.
There is a new firebreak downhill that will test the nerve of drivers and navigators and the course has its share of muddy sections, fast roads and narrow tracks.
“These days getting access to a course in a production pine forest is almost impossible in many parts of New Zealand, and this one is a ripper. The top cars will hit 180 km/h or more in the fast stuff, everyone will be snagging second gear in the tight and twisty single-lane tracks, and we are looking forward to the battle for the outright title between the big unlimited-class cars and trucks and the smaller UTV class racers,” he said.
The defending champion, Daniel Powell, came away from the 2012 race raving about the challenge. This year Powell is sidelined building a new car, meaning there will be a new name on the enduro trophy on Sunday afternoon. The race has attracted a number of North Island entries and one international, Mike Hughes, in a Ford F150 desert race truck.
The most numerous class this year when ‘normal’ entries closed was UTV, with nine confirmed and several more likely to front for the race.
Racing in the 2014 Total Lubricants NZ Enduro Championship – presented in association with Greg Winn Contracting – starts at 11.00 am on Saturday and 10 am on Sunday.
Leading entries in the Total Lubricants NZ Enduro Champs 2014
Class one, unlimited race cars
100 Richard Crabb
171 Paul Smith
173 Nevil Basalaj
182 Blake McDonald
190 Ernie Hogg
192 Ash Kelly
Class two, production four wheel drive race trucks
205 Lucinda Maynard
250 Ron Crosby
Class three, race cars with engines up to 1632cc
375 Cam Stratford
353 Blair Prebble
371 Greg Winn
372 John Van Dyk
376 John Claridge
Class four, sports/improved race trucks
454 Paul Milne
Class six, challenge trucks
618 Don Morgan
Class eight, unlimited race trucks
800 Paul Preston
801 Mike Hughes
832 Carter Strang
864 Neville Taylor
Challenger VW class
C22 John Strickett
C52 Barry Phillips
C99 Paul Cooper
Class 10, motorcycle-engined offroad race cars
1069 Rosco Gaudin
Class U, UTV race vehicles
U01 Donald Preston
U08 Phil Smart
U15 Grant Dickson
U20 Ben Thomasen
U21 Mike Holmes
U22 Dave Henry
U55 Bob Uttridge
U66 Roger McKay
U69 Tony Radisich