Tauranga racer Ben Thomasen has kicked off his offroad racing championship title defence in good form, winning all his heats at the opening round against stiff competition.
Thomasen, driving a factory Polaris RZR 1000 XP, was closely matched by Joel Giddy in his Yamaha, Nathan Moore in a Polaris and Hayden McKenzie in a CanAm – with another four racers waiting for any of the leading bunch to put a wheel wrong on the fast clay and pumice based track.
The event was the first national-level race day held at the Taranaki Offroad Racing Club’s new short course/stadium venue, a highly developed permanent offroad race track. A crowd of more than 1800 turned out to watch the racing.
Organisers combined classes to maximise on-course action. Classes 1, 3 and 10 were brought together, as were classes C, 5 and 7 and the 4WD Bits-sponsored truck/4WD classes and the JG Civil UTV classes.
First blood in class three went to local racer Brendon Old, followed home by Jarrod Marwood who posted fastest lap of 56.852 for the 1.3 km course – well ahead of the unlimited class cars which struggled to find grip on the well-watered surface.
The class three, class one and class ten cars were run as one heat, giving spectators an insight into the speed of the top class three cars.
Third in that heat and first in class 10 was another local, Dan Fromings.
Tony McCall was the fastest unlimited class racer.
Jarrod Marwood was back for revenge in the second heat, topping the results ahead of Old and Andrew Green
Tony McCall was again fastest in class one and set fastest lap, a 55.716.
Fromings was fifth across the line, winning his class again.
The last heat for the combined 1-3-10 class saw Old take the chequered flag, Lance Mitchell second and Marwood third.
Tony McCall made a clean sweep of his class, fourth across the line and set another fastest lap: 53. 539.
In the 4WD Bits truck classes, Rob Cresswell was first to take a win, taking out the first heat with a comfortable 21 second margin over Wellington’s Glenn Turvey.
Nick Hall was first winner in the unlimited trucks class and set the fastest lap of the combined heat, a 56.672.
In the second heat, Glenn Turvey split the unlimited-class field in his class 4 Toyota, taking the class win. Rob Cresswell was a DNF.
Malcolm Langley of Whakatane won the heat outright in his 406 V8 Chev powered race truck, setting fastest lap of 57.222. Nick Hal was close behind, the winning margin just 1.5 seconds.
In the final heat Rob Cresswell took line honours; Chris Trundle joined to score some class six points, and Nick Hall won the unlimited class 8 and set fastest time of 54.883.
The combined Challenger-class five-class seven heat saw Jack Hellier begin his defence of his northern region class title – he was fastest in all his class seven heats ahead of Connor Nicklin and set fastest time of the day for the class with a 1:03.302 in heat three. The class five field was dominated in the early heats by Regan Swensson who posted fastest lap for the class with a 1:01.779 in the third heat.
The UTV classes for ‘side by side’ offroaders has been growing strongly year by year and with three manufacturers now involved is the fastest expanding category in the sport. There were 18 UTVs racing on the day. Defending champion Thomasen finished up second behind Giddy in the opening heat for the S-class or modified UTVs, with Nathan Moore surging through on the attack from lap two to end up third. Rick Field and Craig Patching – a newcomer to UTV racing – did not finish.
The first U class heat was closer fought, with Pukekohe’s Carl Ruiterman leading from start to finish and coming home the winner by nine seconds from a charging Dyson Delahunty, the pair heading the full grid of ten UTVs.
In heat two, Thomasen took his revenge, sweeping from P6 on the start grid to win outright, Giddy crossing to cross the line second .26 seconds behind and setting fastest time of the heat, a 53.076. Third in S class was Rick Field. Carl Ruiterman kept Delahuny at bay in the U-class UTVs, sprinting from P9 at the start to win outright. Brian Rutgers came home third.
The third heat brought Thomasen another S-class win ahead of Giddy, with Nathan Moore third. In the U class the third heat was again won by Ruiterman, with Delahunty second and Matamata driver Dion Edgecombe third.
In the last heat, run as an all-in, Thomasen was first in class and third overall with Hayden McKenzie second (fourth overall) and Joel Giddy third (fifth overall).
The Crabb racing Kiwitruck youth category saw first-heat wins for Harry Hodgson (M class), Lincoln Whiddett (J class) and Tyler King (K class). Heat two saw Brody Savage race to the J class win; Harry Hodgson winning M class and Tyler King winning K class. The third heat saw Hodgson win again in M class, setting himself up for the clean sweep; Whiddett taking out J class and King again winning the K class. A final run for the Kiwitrucks gave Hodgson his four from four for a perfect 72 points in class M. Andre England won J class and Tyler King once again won K class.
In total, five drivers took maximum points: Tony McCall, and in the Kiwitrucks Harry Hodgson and Tyler King.
The next northern round of the 2018 ORANZ offroad racing championship is at another stadium-style farm-based track in Manukau at Colin Dale Park. It is a one day event on April 21.