Hosted by the Waikato Offroad Racing Club, the Castle Craig 250km Enduro Race 2019 attracted around 35 entries, including two Class one’s from the South Island, and a couple of real Woodhill contenders. And according to race organiser, Maurice Bain, it was just the start.
The event has been a while in the making, the club taking advantage of an offer made by Castle Craig owners, the Gilbert family, at the last running of the NZ1000, to make the farm available for offroad endurance races.
The name Simeon Gilbert will be familiar to many as the driver of Taupo Veteran Subaru Leone ‘Heidi’ and for his work on his highly advanced ‘levitation’ suspension system he developed on Heidi in several off-road events.
Simeon says there was a bit of reasoning behind the invite; the first reason was that while he thought the Taupo event “was an incredible event for competitors,” he also reckoned “it was a dog for crews, marshalls, spectators and sponsors.”
Reason #2: “Because we can run a farm event in much better weather” he added, “we may be able to help attract sponsors to the sport.”
Reason #3: “We thought it would have the potential to get some track repairs and maintenance done!” Good thinking.
Maurice Bain, however, points to the huge effort the family put in, replacing culverts and moving gate posts so the event could run, perhaps negating reason #3
Following a trip around the farm by Bain and S-Class racer, Polaris Technical Manager Nathan Moore, to sort out a track, the Castle Craig 250km Enduro Race 2019 was go.
Held entirely on the farm, the Castle Craig 250 was mostly on flat rolling country, with a fairly substantial hill not far in, and a rough 4km section that was best taken at high speed to keep momentum up.
Although it seemed just the sort of track the big horsepower Class ones would really suit, the race was dominated by the smaller Side by Side and UTV Classes, which locked out the podium.
Qualifying started early on race day, on a very wet greasy track, following a heavy dew. A huge advantage to the lower powered 4WD UTVs.
An advantage that continued into the early part of the race until the surface started to dry out a bit in the later stages and the more powerful racers started to reel in the front runners.
But it was too little, too late and U-Class hot shot Dyson Delahunty, who had started fourth on the grid in his Polaris RS1 held on for the win, followed by fellow U Class pilot Scott Munro driving a Yamaha YXZ, and the first of the S-class UTVs William Richards, third in his Can-Am Turbo.
Delahunty reckons, “It was a cool, rolling track and really suited my car. It was seriously, greasy at the start which suited us too.”
Early front runner, ex NZ1 Ben Thomasen in a Polaris Turbo was out after only a couple of laps after hitting a post and losing a rear wheel, and when leader Joel Giddy struck problems in his new YXZ on lap four, Delahunty hit the lead and was never challenged.
By his scheduled fuel stop on lap six, the young Tauranga driver had enough of a buffer to be able to make his stop, and rejoin the race, without losing the lead.
With three laps to go, and with calculations showing he was going to come up about half a lap short for fuel, with a three minute lead in hand, and refuelling taking about a minute, the second stop was an easy call.
With Munro and Richards holding station in second and third, it was up to Rob Ryan to lead the chase in his new class 1 Jimco, but he had to settle for fourth, leading home Neil Hook, driving a class 10 single seater.
It was not looking good for Ryan early on, with his car trailing huge plumes of smoke from a turbo seal leak in its twin-turbo Nissan VQ35 engine, and seemingly on the way to a massive engine failure, but as the race progressed, and the oil level dropped, the smoke cleared and he held on for the result.
Top local, Paul Smith, was forced to retire with gearbox issues, and South Islander visitor Jacob Brownlees was one of several who suffered steering issues.
Although there were a few broken steering joints, Brownlees’ problem was more serious, a steering arm had broken away from the hub.
Following the success of this first Castle Craig 250, the farm owners and organisers have already been scoping out the track for the next one, with the potential for a 25km lap distance.
It would appear the North Island has a new Enduro on the calendar.
Check out all the action in the gallery above and the video below. Photos by Justin Williams.
By the way… Class nine competitor Bain has confirmed the next Castle Craig 250, set for the seventh March 2020, will be the first round of the ORANZ national series.