A 62-strong field of top offroad racers will grid up this weekend at West Melton near Christchurch to contest the final round of the 2018 ORANZ offroad racing national championship.
The turnout is the strongest in the seven-round championship and includes several northern drivers who have chosen to contest southern regional rounds, thus getting early experience of the West Melton short course and endurance race tracks.
Mike Fraser, John Morgan and Brendon Midgley have all raced the Nelson, Christchurch and Kurow round of the series. Morgan has top points in the unlimited race car class and goes up against multiple New Zealand champion Tony McCall, who took the class title for the northern region. Another northern racer, Alan Hilliam, is equal on 88 points with Mike Fraser, while Midgley ended up fourth in class 3 for cars with engines up to 1.6-litres coming into this weekend.
A leading local hope is longtime competitor Bryan Chang in his GT Radials Chev Silverado. His key northern rival is unlikely to enter, but Chang does have to defend against and beat a half dozen of the big V8 trucks in order to win his class.
In the popular JG Civil UTV classes, Joel Giddy shares top modified-class points with Ian Cowan; defending champion Ben Thomasen is third. There is a similar north-south divide in the standard class, where Pukekohe’s Carl Ruiterman shares top points with ‘the Mayor of Milford’ Rosco Gaudin.
All racing is based at the Can Am Speedway on Weedons Ross Road at West Melton. The track has been extensively upgraded with new faster sections and the removal of a two-lane corner in favour of a wider, faster right-hander.
Organisers say the track’s daunting ‘tabletop’ jump on the front straight has been retained and the changes will deliver faster, more spectacular short course racing on Saturday. On the following day the teams take on an endurance race to decide the title, heading out from the short course circuit and into the forest and river tracks to the north. The enduro will be between 200-250 km long.
Gates open at 9.30 am both days with admission $10 per person, under 15 years are free.
Check out more images in the gallery above.
Photos by Mark Baker and Donna Gedye.