Aucklander John Morgan may have seen victory in Sunday’s endurance race evaporate like the fumes in his fuel tank on the second day but his dominant run in the Mainland Challenge short course heats has extended his southern championship lead.
Another northern driver, Brendon Midgley, had won the class three heats (for cars with engines up to 1.6 litres) and in the process set fastest time of the day, putting him on pole for the second day’s endurance race. Andy McFedries was second fastest, Nelson racer Greg Winn third and then John Morgan. Fastest in the 4WD Bits class was local Bryan Chang, ninth overall. Ricky Lane hadn’t been able to set a fast lap time, the big Chev truck struggling in the soupy conditions.
At the race start, Midgely was overtaken in a matter of 200 metres by the flying McFedries, who surged to the lead in his Can-Am. Midgely lasted only two laps, while McFedries dropped sharply down the race order at the end of lap one with a long stop in the pits, fought his way back to third at lap six, dropped back once more than fought up to third at the finish.
Jardyne Lammers had brought his Nissan V8-engined unlimited class car south all the way from Whangarei. Though the short course heats didn’t suit the big car, said he he was looking forward to the enduro.
Lammers took the lead halfway through the second lap but went out with a blown transmission at the end of the fifth lap.
“What an exciting race that was. We had a solid start from eighth, and I was carving my way through the pack to third at the end of lap one. Then once we had stopped, seeing two northern drivers duking it out for the win was awesome!”
Attrition was taking its toll. Nelson’s Greg Winn took the lead briefly but lost a wheel a lap later and was out. Mike Fraser was next into P1, taking the lead as Greg Winn parked The General and holding it until the white flag lap, when he was forced to take on more fuel in a ‘splash and dash’ stop that allowed John Morgan into the lead and set up an epic battle over the final 25 km lap. Pushing to extend his margin over Fraser, Morgan set fastest lap of the race, a 22.32.301 on lap 8 of ten, 12 seconds clear of Fraser who was second fastest on 22.44.634 on the same lap.
“I knew we had to stop for fuel and it wasn’t worth risking a finish to try to run without a stop so we took on 25 litres. Glad we did!”
Knowing the Motomuck car was marginal for the full distance, the stop was essential.
“Then we saw John stopped halfway round the lap and I know what had happened – he’d gambled on fuel. A really hard way for the battle to end, but that’s racing,” he said.
With Morgan out, Nelson racer Cam Stratford came up to second overall at the finish.
Only seven drivers completed the full distance.
In the separate Crabb Racing Kiwitruck youth category, eight-year-old Jack Brownlees continues to pile up the points and with a clean sweep at the Mainland Challenge is now sitting on 144 after two rounds. He amassed his totals despite rolling in one race and was chased home by Kadin Thomasen (second on the day and now third for the regional Kiwitruck standings) and Kelan Keith.
The southern racers and their northern foes now take a break until the third and final southern round at Otago in September.
2018 Hydraulink Mainland Challenge – heats
Race 1 was the slipperiest of the day, and John Morgan made the most of his Desert Dynamics Chev’s wide track and long wheelbase to take the lead on lap one and win as Jacob Brownlees spun out of contention. In the next heat Morgan won again, this time from pole with Nelson’s Greg Winn bringing The General, his Scorpion Chev two-seaters, home second. Whangarei’s Jardyne Lammers was the big mover, up from P6 at the start to the third podium position at the finish. This time it was Mike Fraser’s turn to spin out of a promising finish to be eighth. The final heat saw Morgan complete his trifecta, Winn add another second place to his points tally, and Jacob Brownlees tamed the power of his Mitsubishi Evo engine to be third. Broken steering handed Mike Fraser a DNF.
4WD Bits Class 2
Ron Crosby (Christchurch) was the sole entry in the class, taking top points across the heats.
Northern driver Brendon Midgley surged through from a low start place of P5 to hold the lead on lap three and on to the flag. Joel Green started on pole, faded to second and held that position to the end. Grant Adamson (Nelson) improved from fourth at the start to third. In the second heat Midgley again won, this time from pole, with Adamson second and Braden Hill third. The final heat handed Midgley his third win for a clean sweep, the northerner starting from third on the grid. Grant Adamson took a second and Braden Hill was third.
4WD Bits Class 4
Sole entry Darrin Thomason of Nelson was an early scratching from the heats when he nose-dived his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo on the big front-straight jump, winding himself and injuring his back.
Sole entry Daniel Rusbatch made the most of the day, maximizing points toward the southern region class title.
4WD Bits Class 8
Ricky Lane brought Greg Hiddleston’s Chev pickup out for its first run in almost 15 years but went off in the first heat, beaching the big truck on a tyre wall. He scored a second in heat two but was a DNF in heat three when a radiator hose blew. Christchurch racer Bryan Chang took a perfect three from three wins in his GT Radials Chev turbo ProLite. Blair Prebble blew the engine in his Toyota Hilux turbo.
Former production class 4WD racer Ian Simcox won the first heat, leaping from a start position of P5 into the lead at the end of lap one. Andrew Knight followed him through, starting in seventh place and finishing second. Sam Jury was third.
Race two: Andy Knight jumped from third at the start to go past Ian Simcox and win, Jorja Storer started fourth, dropped to fifth then worked her way back to be third. Building on race two, in the third race Knight surged from P5 at the start to the front on lap one and held position to win. Likewise, Ian Simcox came from P4 to be second at the flag. Jorja Storer was third.
JG Civil UTV Class U
Rosco Gaudin put in his best performance of the year, winning race one-off pole ahead of ex-pat American Cameron Reeves. In the second heat, he won again, overtaking Reeves who tucked in behind the Yamaha of Gaudin but stayed far enough back that his vision was not affected by the flying gravel and mud. In the final heat Gaudin sealed a hat-trick of wins, Reeves once more close behind.
JG Civil UTV Class S
James Fleming won the first S class heat from pole position, Ian Cowan in second and Andrew McFedries leaping from eighth to be third at the finish. In heat two, there was a moment that may have been historic in the sport of offroad racing in New Zealand: brothers Andrew and Hamish McFedries won the heat ahead of Slim Slee. In the final heat, Andrew McFedries made sure of a perfect three from three results with Slim Slee second and Hamish McFedries third.
Crabb Racing Kiwitruck Youth class.
In the separate Crabb Racing Kiwitruck youth category, eight-year-old Jack Brownlees continues to pile up the points and with a clean sweep at the Mainland Challenge is now sitting on 144 after two rounds. He amassed his totals despite rolling in one race and was chased home by Kadin Thomasen (second on the day and now third for the regional Kiwitruck standings) and Kelan Keith (third on the day and now second for the series thanks to a strong second place at the opening round).