Raider takes the prize

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Raider takes the prize

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The General came back to Twizel at Easter and took the major prize.

In an endurance event that listed ten finishers from a total event entry of 40, that took competitors over 250 km of high country glacial valley racing, Aucklanders Ernie Hogg and Mike Fraser made good on their promise to return and take the trophy.

Their Scorpion-based two-seater unlimited-class race car runs in the livery of the General Lee from the popular TV series and movie the Dukes of Hazzard, complete with Confederate flag and bright orange paintwork.

Like the original General, their car is V8 powered, though in the case of the offroad race car the grunt comes from a hybrid spec Chev engine based on an LS2.

The MacKenzie Properties Twizel 250 race weekend opened the southern leg of the 2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship. Held over two days on land beside the massive Ohau hydro canal, the event featured a first day of short course racing followed by the 250 itself, with points divided equally between the two days. Though Hogg and Fraser were not able to amass points (having begun their championship season with the northern round) they were able to score podium results.

In the short course racing, the battle in the Achilles Radial-backed unlimited class was between Hogg and three Nelson drivers: Nevil Basalaj, Ash Kelly and Cam Stratford.

Though many were picking Kelly’s ex-McCall Cougar Evo VW to dominate, it was Basalaj in the Jimco V6 who ran out the winner of the heats.

Hogg and Fraser were the most consistent threat to Basalaj over the short course heats and for several laps of one heat had the big orange two-seater ahead of the eventual winner.

The Jimco is an ‘evolved’ 2004 car that has run at the Baja 1000 and was NZ national champion at the hands of Kevin Charles. With development work by Andrew Thomason, it is a formidable opponent in short course racing though – like the General – its natural home is in endurance racing. It runs a race-prepared Chev V6 engine and is the quickest Jimco in this country by a significant margin.

In class two for production race trucks and 4Wds, the competition was equally intense. Ian Simcox is running a Mitsubishi Pajero Evo, the road version produced to homologate the Pajero for Dakar. Originally built by Neville ‘Max’ Smith in Auckland, the trtuvck has pedigree extending to several Taupo 1000 races and is significantly more powerful than the Suzuki of fellow Christchurch racer Stephen Boyd. Boyd and Ron Campbell were the rest of the class two field, but took the fight to Simcox in every heat, with Boyd rubbing door handles with the Simcox Evo lap after lap. The short course jump, however, was where the Evo showed its breeding and where Simcox showed his commitment to the race win.

Production trucks and the class four modified trucks are not natural jumpers, in fact many choose to brake on the up-ramp of steep jumps, aware of the havoc the landings will cause to standard suspension.

Simcox ran out the winner in all three heats, with Boyd second in each race; Ron Crosby third.

Class three for race cars with engines up to 1.6 litre engines is usually the property of Christchurch racer Wayne Moriarty in his Euroblast Alumicraft Toyota, but at Twizel  he was harried to every finish by Nelson racer Greg Winn in his strong RV Magnum two-seater. Winn’s car is a former national champion at the hands of previous owner Donn Attwood. Both cars run versions of Toyota’s timeless 4AGE engine.

Third in class but down on points after a DNF in race one was Alex MacIndoe.

Class four for ‘improved’ trucks and 4WDs marked the return to championship racing of Nelson’s Darrin Thomason. Formerly a class champion in a Nissan Navara ute, Thomason has had a break from the sport and is now developing a Mitsubishi Pajero V6. He was slowed by an early misfire, but managed to win all three heats. Dave Ballantyne was second in the first class four race but damaged his Nissan Terrano and retired.

Race wins in class five were shared between Joel Green (two) and Graham Fleming.

In Challenger class the race weekend highlighted generational change. While event organiser Barry Phillips has been trying “for ages’ to win his class at his home event, it was down to his son Jake to bring home the short course trophy.

Nelson’s John Strickett won the first heat but mechanical damage forced him out in heat two, leaving Jake Phillips a straight run to the chequered flag.

Dad Barry says the win was well fought and he was (grudgingly) happy to see his son score the win.

The big trucks in the unlimited class were a firm favourite among the 2,000-strong crowd. With seven entries, the class was equal biggest with the UTVs and the action started on the first lap of heat one.

Donald Preston raced the championship last year in the UTV class, letting son Paul run his supercharged Toyota Hilux V8. This year dad was back in the big truck and out to challenge national champion Owen Chang for the title. That went wrong on the first lap when he ran wide at the bottom corner as the field swept through to the front straight. The Hilux slewed sideways through a berm, over the used tyre all that marks the edge of the track, then rolled onto its side. What appeared superficial damage at first glance masked two split oil coolers, putting the Hilux on the trailer for the day.

Richard Knowles in his new Holden V8 ute had a second in that first heat behind Otago’s Carl Gardner in a new Nissan V8 ute imported from Australia. Gardner went on to take a second win and a fourth, Knowles coming back after damaging his front suspension in heat two to win the final race.

But once again, the championship pace was set by Christchurch’s Owen Chang, running in the GT Radial Ford Falcon turbo Pro Lite. With a four cylinder turbo engine and rear wheel drive, Chang was consistently quickest off the line, having to drive around slower-starting trucks from his bad-luck grid positions at the rear of each grid.

A boost issue slowed the truck in the first heats, but third place in the first heat and then second in the next two brought him through the racing in second place for the class.

The Polaris-backed UTV class brought some madness to proceedings with a seven-strong and closely matched grid of racers. Tim George’s blindingly-fast new Polaris won the first two heats convincingly, then he rolled the car in the third heat, causing a brief delay. Righted, he was able to rejoin for the restart and finished fifth. Seasoned racer Roger McKay took the honours for the day with two second places and a win in the third heat.

The sport’s youth category is passionately supported in the south by sisters Brooke and Jorja Storer, both running immaculately turned out yellow J-class Kiwitrucks. Brooke took a brace of wins – and won their Sunday race as well – to take maximum points ahead of Jorja.

The stage was set for the endurance race, the toughest test of the weekend. Overnight, many crews would work to repair race damage to get to the start line of a 250 km race that is unique in the sport.

Into the valley

Hammering across a glacial valley at 200 km/h or more, wondering if the rear tyres are still doing their job or if the sharp flinty frost-shattered rock in the loamy soil have shredded a sidewall. Weaving through thick plumes of dust and trying to make clean passes on lapped traffic. Hitting massive natural jumps at 100 km/h or more and having time to count off the ‘air time’ in seconds before landing.

That’s the challenge, risk and reward of the Twizel 250.

Ernie Hogg came to this race a year ago to test the General against this unique endurance race and ran hard all the way to the race finish. Flat tyres forced him into the pits again and again as he pursued eventual winner Nevil Basalaj.

This year, Hogg was once more battling the course as well as fellow competitors – but this time he emerged the winner. The raider from the north took home the Twizel 250 trophy along with a couple of smashed wheel rims and a tick coating of dust and glacial loam.

Off the start, Nevil Basalaj went out hard with Ashley Kelly in hot pursuit. Hogg slotted into third place as the field sorted itself out. Tim George was the best of the UTvs in fourth overall.

As the field completed the first 13.5 km lap of the track, Basalaj remained in control, Kelly second and Wayne Moriarty had carved through from fifth to be third. Hogg dropped back to fifth, though still in touch. Roger McKay was now best of the UTVs, fourth overall.

By lap four of 19, Ernie Hogg had clawed his way back to the leading bunch, second overall and chasing Basalaj. Ash Kelly was out, having posted fastest lap of the day,  9:03.433 sec with a whole-lap average speed just under 90 km/h. Owen Chang was third and first truck, battling with Carl Gardner. Donald Preston had managed to make a temporary repair to the Hilux but only lasted two laps.

For two brief laps, Roger McKay burst into the lead as Nevil Basalaj struck problems and dropped to tenth; then the General hit the front and was never headed.

Ernie Hogg brushed off punctures, wheel damage and late-race gear selection issues to stay in front to the chequered flag, leading the race for almost half the total distance. He was the only racer to complete the full distance.

 

Overall classification, MacKenzie Properties Twizel 250

1. Ernie Hogg (winner Achilles Radial class 1)

2. Greg Winn (winner class 3)

3. Grant Dixon (winner Polaris UTV class)

4. James Dixon

5. Steven Boyd (winner class 2)

6. Ian Simcox

7. Roger McKay

8. Ron Crosby

9 Owen Chang (winner class 8)

10 Nevil Basalaj

 

Points, South Island sector, ENZED Offroad Racing Championship (top ten)

Ian Simcox 66

Greg Winn 66

Nevil Basalaj 64

Steven Boyd 63

Roger McKay 59

Grant Dixon 57

Owen Chang 57

Ron Crosby 50

Darrin Thomason 48

Joel Green 46

 

Class points, South Island Sector, ENZED Offroad Racing Championship

Achilles Radial class one

Nevil Basalaj 64

Ash Kelly 30

Cam Stratford 24

Class two

Ian Simcox 66

Steven Boyd 63

Ron Crosby 50

Class three

Greg Winn 66

Wayne Moriarty 36

Alex McIndoe 16

Class four

Darrin Thomason 48

Dave Ballantyne 10

Class five

Joel Green 46

Graham Forsythe 32

Class eight

Owen Chang 57

Carl Gardner 40

Gavin Storer 30

Class 10

Rosco Gaudin 36

Wade Halliday 22

Challenger VW

Jake Phillips 34

John Strickett 24

U class

Roger McKay 59

Grant Dixon 57

James Dixon 41

Kiwitruck

Brooke Storer 36

Jorja Storer 32

By |2018-03-05T22:56:03+00:00April 29th, 2015|Events, ORANZ Competitors|Comments Off on Raider takes the prize