His entry to the NZ Rally scene has been described as “the find of the season”, “a breath of fresh air” and “the real deal” by the rally media, but really they are just learning what the offroad racing fraternity have known for some time about two time Woodhill winner and ex NZ Champ, Raana Horan — he can drive.
With a debut season podium, and actually leading the Canterbury Rally outright up to the penultimate stage, true to form, Horan has hit the ground running.
Initially feeling his way in a well sorted Mitsi Evo 9, supported by Neil Allport, Horan has committed to a serious crack at the NZ title, bypassing the more common NZ Spec AP4 cars championed by Andrew Hawkeswood, for an almost new internationally specced and recognized R5 class Skoda Fabia.
And it’s a Fabia with some pedigree, having won the Asia Pacific Championship last year, driven by Gaurav Gill. “It’s much more car than I am driver for sure,” Horan told 4×4 Action Adventure. “In fact, I’m the first person to have ever finished off the podium in it.” Expect that to change — and quickly.
Horan says the main reason for going to the R spec car is the almost guaranteed reliability. “With what I am planning to, I don’t want to be into prototyping,” he said. The level of support and backup is impressive, and, according to Horan, “what happens when you buy a car made by a motorsport factory.”
Parts have an expected life cycle, there is an app to check on the service of microchipped components, and the engine goes back to Czechoslovakia after 2,000 special stage kilometres.
It knows how many of a rally’s total km are special stage because the driver changes the setting on the steering wheel to “special stage” as part of the start line procedures.
For a much more detailed insight into Horan’s Rally NZ early rally activity, check out Mark Baker’s excellent background article.
With our focus being more about the offroad racing future, we are keen to know what the future holds in that field.
Horan is adamant he nowhere near retiring from the sport he is such a highly recognized competitor in, but readily admits “the Skoda is the thing I am into at the moment.”
Although he had not been active in the New Zealand competition, Horan has been driving an ex Australian #1 Jimco as part of a three-car NZ team racing in Australia, along with Auckland’s Richard Crabb and John Morgan.
The Jimco buggy was purchased minus motor and is now fitted with a Turbocharged Nissan VQ35 quad cam Alloy V6. Next start for the team is the October 2018 Kalgoorlie Desert Race, which is Round 6 of the Aussie series.
The Australian Offroad scene has proven frustrating this year for Horan and co-driver Klem Christiansen, with a series of breakages and DNF’s meaning that, to date, they have only finished one event so far for the season.
Two crashes, including a big end over end at the Finke desert classic, haven’t helped.
Meantime, back here, the thundering Big Black Nissan V8 is sitting in the workshop, with lots of new parts ready to be bolted on, waiting for somewhere to race. “It’s just too big for the North Island circuits,” says Horan. The cancellation of both the Woodhill and Matata Enduros just add to the frustration.
Check out the original build story 4×4 Action Adventure magazine did on Big Black that we will reproduce here online. The appearance and performance of this truck prompted Australian Off Road racing icon, and Taupo 1000 winner, Brad Prout, to proclaim builder, original co-driver, and now Rally Co-driver, Mike Smith “an absolute genius.”
Just to reinforce the dedication and professionalism of the team, Mike is now the oldest student (possibly ever) at the New Zealand Rally Co-driver Academy.
As Horan says, “we have to continue to look for the fingertips to get more speed. We are not wearing the tyres out quick enough.”
The team is supported by Race Torque Engineering, run by a couple of ex-pat Kiwis in Australia, with a massive history of rally success behind them, including with Gill in the Skoda, who make the trip across from Perth for the NZ events. “They tell us we have to be careful not to get too bamboozled with too much information this early on,” says Raana, “the experienced guys have so much history.”
So while we wait for the return of Horan and “Big Black”, we have to be satisfied with following his success in the Skoda, and frustrations in the Skoda. Let’s hope the wait is not too long.
Keep up with Raana Horan and Big Black Motorsport on his Facebook page.