Typical Taranaki changeable weather greeted the NZ’s best short-course off-road racers for the ORANZ NZ Short Course Championships near Midhirst today. Previous days of rain had threatened cancellation of the event, but the weather gods smiled favourably on the organisers and the event went without a hitch.
The small Taranaki club put on a great meeting and attracted 12 classes of experienced and rookie peddlers. There were some notable drivers absent, such as 5 x NZ Champion Tony McCall, but the quality of the fields was still evident by the quick lap times laid down on the slippery clay surface.
Justin Davies (Class 1 Cougar) from Waiuku dominated the premier open-wheel class by winning all four heats with relative ease, setting fastest times and earning his NZ crown. His newly rebuilt machine looked smooth and fast as he steered this fire-spitting beast around the twisty course. Davies put in a series of polished performances even with a lack of seat time while awaiting his engine rebuild to be completed. The 24 year-old driver is one to watch this season, his form is building nicely toward the Woodhill Enduro event in two weeks.
The stadium trucks put on a great display, lapping the 1.3km track in 57.2s as the surface allowed the V8 trucks to finally get some of their power down. Taranaki driver Dean Christmas snared the NZ title, while Malcolm Langley and Nick Hall were tied on 50 points, with the second spot going to Langley on countback.
14-year old Rookie Matthew Bishop had a stellar day behind the wheel of his Challenger class machine, winning all four races and giving his competition a driving lesson. A graduate of the ORANZ feeder Junior Truck category, Bishop showed the value of a development programme by asserting himself well in this faster class.
Class 4 only had one competitor, but Robert Cresswell earned his NZ plate after dicing all day with the much faster V8 trucks. Creswell’s machine has a limited 4.3L engine and restricted suspension, so his results were a credit to his ability behind the wheel.
The group which provided some real spirited wheel-to-wheel action to the delight of the large spectator gallery was the Class 3 machines. The 11 competitors tested each other all day, with Connor Nicklin edging out Mark Goldstone. Ricky May completed this podium. The cars are limited to normally-aspirated 1650cc engines, but produced lap times within 5s of the fastest race cars.
Perhaps the most recent addition to the ORANZ range is the Class U and S classes. These are 1000cc mass produced UTV type recreational vehicles (Polaris etc) which are adapted for racing. The S Class allows engine sizes up to 1000cc for turbo engines and 1500cc for naturally aspirated engines and these vehicles are also based on a controlled UTV platform. The NZ title was secured by ex NZ Champion, Carl Ruiterman in the U class, with Blake Spiers winning class S. Bragging rights for fastest time of the day went to Dion Edgecumbe, by less than 1/10th of a second over Ruiterman.
The Junior Kiwi Trucks class (J) for drivers under 15 is one of three feeder categories and these have a 9hp 270cc 4 stroke engine. These little trucks race hard and look amazing. The NZ Championship was picked up by Lucy McKay, who was followed home by Tanner Willetts and Lachlan McWatt.
Class M are a Modified Kiwi Truck and run a 200cc 4 stroke farm bike engine, capable of propelling these weapons to over 60km/hr average speeds around the tight track. After a torrid day behind the wheel, Kenna Baker secured the title by only 4 points from Luke Rowberry. The ST class was won by Arron Crab.