t’s relentless. The NZ Enduro Champs does not let up. It keeps coming at the drivers for 700km of rough roads and bush tracks. It does care that they are wet, cold, wind-blown and covered in mud. It keeps on coming. Relentless.
For the 30 race cars and 50 drivers this relentless race, on Saturday 17 July and Sunday 18 July, will take a toll. Organisers are expecting an attrition rate in excess of 50 percent. It’s a staggering figure and it means fewer than 15 finishers are expected. Many of the race cars will fall by the way in unspectacular style. But for some, it will be a spectacular demise as race cars collide with the scenery.
Flat tires will be common. Some racers will opt to race on a blown tire, trying to limp the car back to the pits. With the 35km lap length, this usually results in the rubber completely disintegrating and the aluminium rim becoming shrapnel wrapped tightly around the hub.
In many cases it will be the driver that lets go before anything on the car fails. 700km in the Golden Downs Forest is like driving from Nelson to Invercargill on a gravel road that drives through the rivers, rather than over them. Cold, wet and Adrenalin raging, the racers are prone to misjudgments. Conditions are less than ideal for getting the race cars to full race distance.
In this chaos, experience counts. Many of the racers in the Enduro Champs are seasoned distance racing competitors. They have honed their skill to meet these specific conditions. Local racers Dan Fisher and Alex Bright are sharing the drive of #110 and feel their knowledge of the forest is a huge advantage. At 25mins per lap this race is great for spectators to view the cars regularly at the viewing point by the pits.
The racers will need every advantage they can get with ORANZ champions Joel Giddy and Carl Ruiterman teaming up to race #S16, a fully developed Yamaha side by side racer that could very well be on the podium on Sunday.
Another strong duo competing are father and son, Leigh and Matthew Bishop. At 14 years old Matthew will be the co-pilot for his dad Leigh. This is quite an endorsement of the skillset Matthew has been developing in ORANZ competition over the last 6 years. This weekend they team up to take #863 racing. #863 is a 6.2 litre, Chev LS3 V8 powered racetruck. Leigh gets my vote for “Dad of the Year 2021”. His confidence in Matthew is well founded. Matthew has risen from dominating the KiwiTruck classes, with national championship trophies to prove his prowess, to proving his race cred with national trophies in his 1600cc Challenger race car and 1000cc turbocharged side by side.
The line up to start the race reads like a who’s who in the 2021 Offroad Racing competition. Doing the full race distance solo are some of the hardest racers in the country. #107 Todd Graham from Hawkes Bay brings his single seater across the strait for the second time this year. #171 Paul Smith is determined to add the Enduro Champs overall trophy to the cabinet alongside his 2019 Woodhill 100 winner trophy. And just wait till you see #900 Maurice Bain from the Waikato club, in his V6 powered “New Beetle” Baja Bug.
This huge race distance has brought a large contingent of racers to Nelson from all parts of the North Island. Being close to 50% of the field, these racers mean business. But they won’t get an easy run from the Southern contingent. The cold, wet conditions are expected to work in the favour of the more local racers. Let’s hope the Northerners can acclimatise on the journey to Nelson by leaving the tow vehicles windows down as they head south.
The Southern charge at this race is stacked full of Offroad Racers who have tasted glory in national competition and they aren’t phased by any adversary they meet on the race track. #S46 Bub Uttridge takes on the full race distance in his turbocharged 1000cc Yamaha. #844 Darrin Thomason lines up in the V6 powered Toyota Tundra race truck and legendary offroad racer Barry Phillips lines up with co-driver Jake Phillips in #U49, a 1000cc turbo charged Yamaha side by side.
The scene is set for a legendary contest. The Machinery is ready for it. The Racers and ready for it. And somehow I think the Forest is ready for it. Follow the signs into the forest from Wakefield. There is no charge for admission to the event. Coffee and Food Caterer in the Pits. Bring a picnic. It’s going to be a great weekend in the forest.
Let’s Go Racing!