It’s just another day at the Office!

You would have to be wondering if that thought was going through Carl Ruitermans’ mind, at the 2020 Daltons backed Castlecraig 250 Off-road Enduro where he took yet another win in the  E & H Motors prepared S-Class Yamaha YXZ

But there was a significant difference from the usual process that gets either Carl or teammate Joel Giddy, onto that top podium step.

“Getting to do the reccee lap the day before was just brilliant,” says Carl. “We got to set up the ride heights, and suspension settings the night before to get the cars to do just what we wanted right from qualifying”.

“The E & H team have been doing a lot of development work on the cars in the time they have been racing, with lots of data capture and analysis, then applying it to the cars set up.

“I just love driving that car,” Carl commented, “and a big part of that has been learning the setups too.”

“The track was really rough in places, but manageable. It was a great race.”

Second across the line was series sponsor Joel Giddy in the second of the E & H Yamahas. Giddy had qualified third behind another S-Class Turbo UTV, Dion Edgecombe in his new Polaris ProXP.

First time out for Dion Edgecombe in the new Polaris.

Giddy overtook Edgecombe on Lap 3 to move into second and briefly took the lead off Ruiterman on lap 10, before dropping back into second the following lap.

Edgecombe held onto third in his first outing in his new S-Class Polaris. The new Turbocharged Polaris SXS is a significant step up for Dion, and a podium result on its first outing is an impressive result.

Holding into third from lap 3, Edgecombe was briefly relegated to 4th by Regan Swensson who was making a massive charge back up the field after dropping from his 10th place on the starting grid down to 22nd on the first lap.

Swenssons’ 4th overall gave him the win in the ‘anything goes’ Class-1 field ahead of Shaun Russell who had qualified as the top Class 1 at 5th.

Regan Swensson, top Class-1 finisher.

From his initial grid position, Swensson dropped 12 places in the hectic first lap. “There were no car issues, I got caught up in a huge dust cloud on the hill, and pretty much had to pull over till it cleared.”

“From there it was hammer down,” he said. “It was only my third event in the car and after the years in the Class-5, I really enjoyed the rough stuff. Being able to blast across the top of the ruts is just something else.”

Swenssons buggy was built by Howell in Adelaide and had immediate success in the hands of its new kiwi owner. “We were 3rd in Class, and 5th overall at Woodhill,” Ryan says, “and now with 1st in class here, and 4th overall we’re pretty rapt.”

By the 4th lap, Russell had dropped to 8th overall, losing spots to Brian Rutgers, who bought his S-Class UTV through to 5th overall in a very solid performance, and another S-Class driver Rick Field, who held a steady 6th overall at the midway point, before fading to 15th at the finish.

Russell made it as high as 6th overall, swapping places with U-Class high qualifier, Scott Munro, then losing 7th to Shane McWatt, driving another U-Class, to finish 8th overall, and second in Class-1.

McWatt had a blinding first two laps, rocketing from his 23rd start position to 9th overall by the start of lap 3, eventually crossing the line in 7th, and second in Class behind Munro.

Munro put in another impressive performance in his standard Spec E & H Yamaha to stay in the hunt with the much more powerful S-Class competition, and finish 6th overall.

Brendon Old was the top Class-3 finisher in 9th overall, steadily improving from his 18th on the start grid. Second in Class-3 was Paul Rushton, who had picked up 10 places from his grid 20 start in the first 2 laps, but dropped back to 16th at the finish.

Rounding out the top 10 was another Class-1 runner Paul Eayrs, another who made impressive progress during the day, gaining 17 spots from his start off grid 27.

The unlimited Class-8 was taken out by Shane Huxtable, in his big V8 Chev powered truck, after his only competitor, Ricky May, retired his V8 Ford on the second lap.

Shane Huxtable”s new Class-8, Chev V8.

Huxtable had rapidly come to grips with his new mount, advancing to 10th by the halfway point, before a Class-1 buggy, that had overshot a corner, backed into him in the dust, damaging the front of the truck.

Repairs dropped Shane right back down to 18th, from which point he climbed back up to 11th.

The only Class 10 finisher, Neil Hook, was another whose rapid rise in the first couple of laps would propel him to a good finish.

From 25th on the grid, Hook was lying 12th by lap 3. A busy mid-race period saw him chop and change places during the afternoon, at one stage dropping back to 17th, before recovering to 12th, where he finished.

Event co-ordinator Maurice Bain, who started from the tail of the field in his Class-9  Crumco VW Baja was impressed with the low DNF rate, despite the very hard and dry track surface.

Maurice Bain Class 9 Crumco VW Baja.

“There was a dust issue that had to be managed,” he said, “you had to allow passing cars to get a bit of a gap before the next dust patch, and time your own passing so you didn’t hit a big patch right behind someone else!”

“Even though the podium was dominated by the UTV’s it wasn’t a small car track really,” he continued. “There was a lot of Post damage, usually caused by overdriving, silly damage caused by people doing silly things.”

Class 1 front runner, Chris Whyte, has his own ‘Post Damage’ story to tell, (click here) and it didn’t even happen during the race.

Whyte got his big V8 powered rig way too sideways when the rear wheels ended up in the grass, approaching a 90deg corner through a gateway, and the buggy hit a big Strainer Post completely sideways.

Chris Whyte in the qualifying lap.

The force of the impact threw the buggy into the air, and Whyte admits to being surprised when it didn’t roll. “I thought we were gone” he admits.

More surprising was the lack of damage to the car. “The only things damaged were a bit of paint off the bars, and a dent in my ego!”

The car frame was built in Christchurch by Andrew Thompson at Full Size Performance, to Chris’s plans and completed from parts imported from the U.S. “It just goes to show how strong it is when it can bounce off an impact like that,” he reckons.

The car took a few years to complete, and has probably only been raced about 8 times in the last 5 years. “Because I spend so much work time between here and Australia,” says Whyte, Group Sales Manager for Century Batteries Motive Power Division “I don’t really get enough chances to get out and learn how to drive it.”

Race days performance belies Whyte’s analysis. After a major overnight check following the crash, he started in 32nd position, coming right through the field to be lying 7th overall by lap 12.

“It sure was a lot of fun,” says Chris. “I was looking forward to maybe picking up a couple of more places when it just dropped a cylinder, and we had to pull out.”

Once back in Auckland, the team went over the buggy looking for the fault which by then had disappeared. “It’s a total mystery,” says Chris. “Nothing shows up on the data records or analyser. It’s got us beat.”

Whyte was classified as finishing in 24th.

According to Bain, Castlecraig 2021 is already in the planning. “Simeon (the farm owner) is just incredible to deal with,” he says. “They widened gates and rerouted tracks to improve things for 2020 and have plans to make it even better for next year.”

“I hope everyone appreciates just how fortunate we are to have this,” he added.

With COVID-19 shutting down the 2020 series, and most club racing, at least there is something to look forward to. Bring on the 2021 Castlecraig 250!!

WORDS BY JR

IMAGES COURTESY OF MARK BAKER- VERITAS COMMUNICATIONS

 

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