PICS BY SAM BOLTON PHOTOGRAPHY
Defending champ, Aucklander Scott Biggs, headed into the South Waikato round of the NZ 4×4 Trials Series holding a slender lead, but the chasing pack is getting stronger with each round.
And closing the gap his twin brother Jarred, is quickly coming to terms with both his 900hp V8 monster and his first season driving.
Jarred is also defending champ, having co-driven for Scott last season, but is in hot competition with him this year, and already showing lessons learned as a co-driver can be well applied from the other side of the car.
The brothers drive their own built Nitro Customs buggies, Scott’s powered by a 525hp 6 litre Chev V8, and Jarred’s by a 900hp Supercharged version of the same motor.
Last year’s #2 Hamish Auret, a horse trainer from Wanganui, missed the first round, but roared straight back into contention with second place in round two in his 600hp, 7 litre LS7 Chev powered Cowper truck, while last year’s #3 Greg McDell, a mechanic from Taupiri has fallen off the pace in his LS2 powered Cowper, finishing 7th in Round 2.
Situated 25kms East of Putaruru, Pukeatua, the site of Round 3, lies in the middle of South Waikato’s Dairy country, and in the shadow of the wildlife sanctuary mountain, “Maungatatari.”
“The course was well laid out” according to Scott Biggs. “There was a great mix of technical stages, with some big horsepower hill climbs we were able to take advantage of.”
But despite these efforts, it was the Killer Bee brothers of Greg and Chris McDell who held a reasonably comfortable 25-point lead from Jarred Biggs at the midway lunch break.
The Hamilton based McDell brothers had had a challenging start to the day, losing their left front wheel brake early in the morning, and spending about 2 hours in the pits trying to repair it.
“After that,” says Greg, “We were playing catch up and just went like crap”. It was a tactic that must have worked, because they either cleared or scored least penalties on all the morning stages.
Just to add to the drama, their LS2 Chev V8 Cowper buggy spent more time in the pits just before lunch to repair the damage caused when it caught fire.
Series leader Scott Biggs was way back in seventh place, after scoring a massive 60-point penalty on stage 15, one of only three to not clear the stage. Between Biggs and the leaders were Matamatas Phil Hobart, with his Co-driver daughter Brittany, Derek Smyth and Hamish Auret.
For a while it looked like the McDells were going to be able to hold on to their lead through the afternoon stages, despite their wheel brake problem worsening.
They cleared all but two of the stages, but without the individual braking they were caught out by a couple of ditches and picked up 100 penalties to drop them back to 3rd.
Scott Biggs won the afternoon, winning both timed stages, and clearing all but one hazard, which he low scored. That performance was enough to elevate him to second, beating out McDell by just 3.5 points, 281.5 to 285.
The day however belonged to Jarred Biggs, his second-place performance in the afternoon good enough to give him his first trial win as a driver and reignite his title chances.
It almost didn’t happen though. When Shane Hazelden rolled off a hazard, he landed on Jarred’s parked buggy, damaging the main roll cage loop.
In Scott’s words “fortunately we were able to cut the bent section out and repair it for Jarred to finish the day and go on to win his first event as a driver”.
The Hobarts couldn’t hold on to third and dropped a place to finish just ahead of Smyth, who had finally beaten his transmission issues.
With Auret finishing sixth, the top placings were shared between the Nitro Trucks; First, Second, and Fifth, and the Cowper Trucks; Third, Fourth and Sixth.
In C Class it was again Nathan Fogden that took home the win, after having found himself in the unfamiliar position of second place behind Shayne Towers at the midway point.
Fogden put his early season dominance down to some pre-season practise with co-driver Mike Gibbons giving them initial seat time ‘advantage’.
Class rules prohibiting the big V8s run by the D-Class trucks, Foden’s Cowper Truck is powered by a 260Kw 2.4 litre Mitsubishi built by Gibbons.
The engine runs an EVO 9 head, and massive twin Scroll Borg Warner Turbos, the team are the only ones to run Tyrelines BFG KM2 Mud Terrain tyres, which Nathan also believes contribute to their success.
Towers finished second in class, and Steven Tomason took out a comfortable third.
Second generation Wellington competitors William Jeffery and Daniel Howat again contested Class A, with Jeffery repeating his second-round win.
At the halfway point of the series, Scott Biggs is looking fairly comfortable at the top of the table, but with Jarred now on a serious charge, no one is really safe, as the battle between the Nitro and Cowper camps heats up.
Watch for our coverage of the next spectacular round of the NZ Trials Series from the Waikato.