Tough Times in the Akatarawas for the 2019 Tararua Winch Challenge

The conversations in the pits at scrutineering for the 2019 Tararua Winch Challenge on Friday afternoon were all about the truck-breaking reputation of the Rallywoods venue for 2019 — and how to deal with it.

And, let’s face it, it’s a well-deserved reputation, with the steep rocky terrain, nasty rutted and well cut up tracks, and the limitless combination of hazards available having taken their toll on vehicles and crews over the years.

It’s no mystery why the Tararua 4×4 Club chose the place as the venue for their 2019 Tararua Winch Challenge on the fifth and sixth of April.

It’s also obvious why they asked Rallywoods identity “Skid” Mark Pincock to oversee the actual running of the day. His intimate knowledge of the place and huge experience in running this type of event kept everything on track, with few hold-ups, and the last trucks still in contention able to complete their final stages prior to close off time.

2019 Tararua Winch Challenge Starts With Friday Night Lights
Night stage start

It was dark, cold, drizzly with low cloud when the first two trucks started their allocated courses on Friday night, typical of Rallywoods, and, some may say, perfect Challenge weather. The competitors may have been revelling in it, the officials maybe not so much.

With only two stages being run simultaneously on the night, it was hoped they would be over at a reasonable hour to allow competitors to prepare for the full-on following day. But with a couple of the teams running up close to maximum time on stage one and a bit of running gear damage to contend with, there were a few crews facing a late night, and early morning, to make the start next morning.

Diff Change early Saturday Morning

A complete Hilux crown wheel assembly for Dean Currie was among the spares shipped in from Porirua the next morning. A major repair effort for very little reward was the result, however, as Dean and winchman Ash Goddard only managed to complete five stages of the 14 run on Saturday.

By the time the teams faced their first challenges on Saturday morning, Outlaw Class favourites Brock Welsh and winchman Nick Scales were already putting their stamp on the event, with two stage wins, and a two minute time advantage over Roger and Sean Urwin to hold both class and overall leads.

Open class leaders and second overall were Nelson’s Scotty Newport and James Keys, 15 seconds adrift of Welsh, but with two-stage class wins well ahead of Hawkes Bays Nigel Reid and Paul Kelly, aboard Reid’s long-serving Suzuki.

Newport and Keys

But, as expected, the attrition rate grew in both classes as the day progressed, with Open class virtually reduced to two by the end of the day, Newport ahead of Reid by a comfortable 58 points.

Their performances were good enough to put Newport and Reid in third and fifth overall respectively, split by the ever consistent pair of Stan Goodman and Chris Golding in the Outlaw Class V8 powered 40 series Cruiser, third in class and fourth overall.

The battle at the top of the outlaw class went right down to the wire, with the Welsh/Scales pair holding out fellow South Islanders Nathan Hammond and Daniel Swift for a narrow 50 point victory.

Nathan Hammond and Daniel Swift

From their second place overnight, the Unwin team dropped to eighth, victims of the unforgiving Akatarawa landscape. Newcomers, and local lads Michael Duncan and Ben Harvey impressed in their first outing in Michael’s well engineered little Suzuki, finishing sixth overall, and fourth in class.

This team will be the ones to watch over the next couple of seasons, as they spend more time together, and come to grips with the potential of the little Zuke.

Duncan and Harvey

The 2019 Tararua Winch Challenge reinforced the trend seen earlier in the year at the King of the Palace event where the traditional heavily engineered big trucks were outclassed by the newer, lighter, and more nimble vehicles. It will be interesting to see how this resolves itself during the Mainland series during the winter 2019 season.
Check out all the action in the gallery below. Photos by Tara Koornneef.

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