In a matter of two weeks, offroad racing crowned all of its regional champions and found two new outright champions.
In the south, Taranaki’s Brendon Old hammered home his challenge at the start of September with a strong showing at the final round, held on Slim Slee’s Can-Am backed race stadium short course. He took his US-built single-seater to three wins out of four heats up against arch rival Brendon Midgley – also a northern competitor. Three second placings and a win in his Alumicraft single seater race car were enough to give the Taranaki driver the win after strong performances at the first two rounds. He raced through Saturday’s heats with a recurrent misfire eventually traced to a fuel pump malfunction.
Otago Offroad racing Club’s two day event featured a full day of ‘short course’ heats on a terraformed stadium-style track on Slim and Janina Slee’s massive farm just outside Kurow. The following day racers contested a stand-alone 260 km endurance race.
Throughout all four heats Brendon Midgley, pushed Old hard and took race wins with Fergus Crabb and Joel Green also in class contention. None, though, had amassed enough points going into the round to hand them the title.
Big boys class brings biggest crash
Nelson’s Greg Winn was the first casualty in the big-banger unlimited class, hit from behind by northern racer Mike Fraser and pitched into a deep ditch which smashed his Scorpion Chev’s front suspension.
The unlimited class also provided the most spectacular crash of the day. Christchurch driver Mark Brown cartwheeled his new American single-seater over the course’s daunting ‘table-top’ jump, where cars flew two metres or more in the air. Brown launched off the upward ramp and landed awkwardly on one front wheel, rebounding into the air and cartwheeling down the track for more than 20 metres. The race was stopped and he emerged from his battered car shaken but able to walk unaided – directly into the course ambulance for a comprehensive check-over.
Aucklander John Morgan also narrowly escaped a rollover in a later unlimited class heat when his car’s tyres dug into a rut and pitched it into a long two-wheeling ‘bicycle’ moment before dropping back on its wheels. He won class one for the weekend, while Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj won the class for the region.
Cooler heads prevail in other classes
There was less chaos in the smaller classes, with northern racers winning several class titles. Todd Graham (Napier) won class five for cars with engines up to 1.3-litres; consistency was the keyword from Christchurch ten Brooke Storer, who won the VW Challenger heats ahead of Andrew Knight; Tauranga’s Dyson Delahunty has been on the pace all year in the south, running a single-seater Polaris in the JG Civil U class. Kurow was no exception: he took four wins from four starts in an untroubled run.
Likewise in a 10-strong grid of S class modified UTVs northerner Joel Giddy took three wins from four starts, Slim Slee following him home in second place in his Can-Am.
4WD Bits class 2 was owned lock, stock and barrel by Christchurch’s Rob Crosbie in his Mitsubishi Pajero. The battle in 4WD Bits class 8, where the experienced Bryan Chang survived non-stop assaults from the V8-engined trucks of Cam Stratford and Paul Preston and the six cylinder Ford Prolite of Bruce McKenzie. Stratford broke his front driveshaft, while Preston’s Toyota Hilux V8 managed three wins before it went out with a mechanical issue. Second in the class was Bryan Chang in the Giti Tyres Chev turbo.
Otago driver Barry Phillips managed second in the VW baja-based class nine behind Donald McMillan.
The smallest cars in the event were four in the Kiwitruck youth categories for Arron Crabb, Asher Morgan, Harry Hodgson and Jack Brownlees. Morgan and Hodgson won their classes.
The event maxed out Kurow’s accommodation, with an estimated 405 bed-nights required just to handle the racing crews, which average three people.
Glory just out of reach for Old
Two weeks later at Raglan, Brendon Old was racing again though with less chance of making the historic double. His northern campaign was not as robust, and he faced a whole grid of racers who were fresh to the duel and had not travelled to contest the southern rounds.
The overall northern title went to a Challenger VW class racer, but it was no easy run to the win. The Challenger grid was three strong, with Mark Goldstone also in the mix and Steven Hughes bringing his car out for a run – though with no prier points to his name.
Hughes went out with a mechanical problem on the first straight in the first heat, leaving Tim and Mark Goldstone to battle for class honours in that heat and another three.
Their battle went all the way to the final round where the pair swapped the lead lap by lap until Goldstone got in front as the white flag was shown and Ackers tipped his car into a rollover at the bottom of the main downhill. It was a spectacular ‘win-it-or-bin-it’ charge that very nearly won him the heat. The crash could not stop Ackers’ assault on the northern region offroad racing crown – he landed on his wheels and took off after Goldstone, safely banking points for second in class in that heat to secure the title.
Old’s run in class three on the rollercoaster clay-based course netted him c clean sweep of wins with Mike Gibson behind him and Connor Nicklin third – the latter two having tangled in one heat in a bone-shaking tangle.
The massive growth in number and quality of grids for the powerful class one cars continues, with eight cars gridding up for the event. It was soon to be seven, with Tony McCall pulling out of heat one with a drivetrain mechanical issue believed to be a smashed diff.
From that point the battle was a three-way affair, with Nelson’s Dan Fisher (Razorback Chev) and Karl Fenton (Jimco Chev) sandwiching the smaller Cougar Honda of Justin Davies. Though Fisher went on to win the class with three wins from four starts, Davies had the Cougar well dialled-in for the sweeping downhills and clay soil of the course and took the second heat.
Class five went to Ben Howard in a clean sweep of four wins from four starts ahead of Nick Magness and Todd Graham.
Class seven was a solus result for Keegan Russell, who won both the class on the day and for the series.
UTVs deliver all wheel drive excitement
The UTV classes are now well entrenched in offroad racing and well capable of delivering event victories and also outright championship wins. In the JG Civil U class for more standard cars, the north delivers massive grids. This year the pace of change has slowed somewhat, with the new Polaris single-seater the main launch. Dyson Delahunty and Dion Edgecombe have transitioned, but Delahunty also has a two-seater RZR 1000 at his disposal, and chose to switch to this from the single-seater he used at Kurow. The change was no disadvantage, handing the young Tauranga driver a clean sweep of class wins, while Dion Edgecombe tipped his single-seater over on one of the big downhills, smashing the front suspension.
In the seven strong ‘modified’ S class, Joel Giddy found himself locked in a day-long battle with Nathan Moore and defending class champion Carl Ruiterman. Giddy won the first heat, chased across the line by Ruiterman; the second heat saw Ruiterman come through for the win with Moore second and Giddy third in some of the closest racing of the day. The third heat was Giddy-Ruiterman-Moore and the standings were only resolved in the final heat which was won by Ruiterman ahead of Moore and Brian Rutgers.
Several classes had only single entrants, all of which took maximum points. I addition to class seven, Warren Adams won 4WD Bits class six in his V8 Nissan Safari and Nick Hall won 4WD Bits class eight in his Toyota Chev ProLite. Neil Hook was also a lone entrant in class ten. Placed with the S class grid, he put on a hard-charging show in his Barracuda