Whitemans Valley, just north of Wellington, has a bit of a reputation as a rain magnet. For this reason, it is also a well-known 4×4 magnet. Back 0n November 10, it managed to attract both as the Valley 4WD Club hosted the first round of the 2018/19 NZ Trials series.
The rain arrived on the eve of the MSR-supported event, but fortunately, it had gone by the time the event started the next morning. But it sure made its mark on the course — and competitors.
Heading into the series, the most interest was focused on how twins Jarred and Scott Biggs, the defending championship pairing, would fare as they are now competing against each other in their team built Nitro trucks.
Last seasons driver, Scott, was probably a slight favourite, with the seriously experienced Phillip Walton as co-driver. But Jarred’s massive horsepower advantage from his supercharged 6L LS2 Chev was touted by many as more than levelling the playing field.
Ex-NZ champ Derek Smythe, also in a Biggs-built Nitro Customs is never far out of the reckoning when it comes to picking a winner, and was expected to do well in the wet and muddy conditions.
Leading the Cowper truck assault on the series was manufacturer Dan Cowper himself, the multiple NZ1 titleholder back into the fray.
With Cowper stalwart, Hamish Auret a no show for the opening round, it was going to be up to Cowper to carry the flag for his own brand this weekend.
A very mixed day was in store for the teams, with some very deep mud, interspersed with sharp rocky sections, and the odd dry dirt patch.
The top drivers described it as very technical in places, with wheel placing accuracy playing a big part. Smythe particularly enjoyed the ability to pick new lines at times.
“A very muddy rally which suited the light trucks like my one,” he said. “Truck positioning was critical to get between the pegs.”
There was very little between the top teams right through the day, with Scott Biggs and Smythe both scoring the same points on 24 of the 32 stages run, with them both clearing 19 without penalty.
But in the end, it was Biggs who came out on top, with three more clear rounds. But Smythe had his own victory, winning the first speed section. Jarred Biggs took out the afternoon’s speed section, putting the big Chevs reputed 900+ horsepower to good use.
Third place went to another Nitro Customs truck, Neville Mather and Richard Verner taking the final podium step.
It was a great result for the Nitro Customs team, with a clean sweep of the podium, but it could have easily been a lot different, with Biggs very close to disaster.
“I broke a front axle,” said Biggs. “After the event, I pulled the front diff to discover five teeth missing off the crown wheel, lucky to finish, let alone get the win.”
Cowper was 4th, with Greg McDell 5th, both in Cowper trucks.
In the lower powered C-Class field, Nathan Fogden won a very close scrap with Phil Conwell, with a result that would have put him in the top 10 of the top division.
Daniel Howat scraped home with a narrow victory in class A, after a day-long pitched battle with William Jeffrey, the pair equal points on 16 stages, and swapping advantage for the rest of the day.
So with the opening round going to the defending champion, the travelling show moved to the Manawatu, and the return of ex-Champ Hamish Auret, with his potent 600hp 7litre LS7 powered Cowper truck. Don’t go away!
Check out all the action shots from NZ Trials Series Round 1 in the gallery above.