The fast men – and women – of offroad racing return to the forests south of Nelson this weekend as the 700 km GT Radial NZ Enduro Championship roars into action.
Nelson Offroad Racing Club spokesperson Darrin Thomason says with rally-style roads joining a few tougher slow sections, top cars are expected to hit 180 km/h in parts of the course. Preparation work this week has the course in ideal condition, and a damp base means dust should be minimal.
The course is an extension of the Nelson Ruff’n’Tuff endurance race earlier this year and the race will be held over two days, with up to 350 km to be covered at racing speeds.
“There are some great fast pieces and we’ve gone beyond where the previous track turned down into the valley,” said Thomason. “Plenty of places for people to overtake, which will be important in the opening laps as the field sorts itself out.”
Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen has won the race twice on the trot, and is back to try for a ‘hat-trick’ of wins with his Polaris RZR ‘side by side’ (UTV) racer. The UTVs don’t develop huge power but they are lights and more nimble than many of their rivals, and they have four-wheel drive.
“Ben’s a seasoned racer, national champion and winner of this event, He knows how to stay in front of the big bangers so it’s going to be interesting to see how he runs this course,” said Thomason.
He faces tough opposition though: between the standard and modified UTV classes that are more than 15 entries, and there are any number of V8-powered unlimited-class race cars readying for the fray including enduro specialist Clim Lammers, who will share his single-seater with son Clim-Tristan (Jr). The car has a fresh supercharged V8 engine specially prepared for the race.
Also likely to run at the front is local man Greg Winn in the General, a Scorpion-Chev two-seater in bright orange Dukes of Hazzard colours.
Auckland’s Mike Fraser is doing all his racing in the South Island this year and brings his stunning single-seater with Toyota V8 power fresh from winning the 250 km endurance race at Canterbury’s Mainland Challenge last month.
The race’s sole female contestant, Lucida Maynard, runs a standard-class UTV.
Darrin Thomason has boldly laid down his ‘most likely to win’ list, in no particular order: the Lammers pairing, Mike Fraser and Greg Winn.
There are plenty of others who have the capability and speed to take the title. With two days of racing and up to 700 km to cover.
“This is where strategy happens: the temptation is to go out hard and race the first day, hoping your opposition will break – but maybe it’s better to hold back a little on the first day and the go for it in the second 350 km on Sunday?”
At stake from GT Radial NZ is a voucher for up to $800 which can be redeemed after the event. The voucher will be a random prize drawn at prizegiving. Race start order within each class will be decided by a marble draw at driver’s briefing.
Race action starts on Saturday with a separate enduro for the Kiwitruck youth classes at 8:45 am on Saturday, with the big race getting underway an hour later; on Sunday the second Kiwitruck race is at 8:00 am and the second 350 km of the main event starts at 9:00 am.
For spectators and crews, the forest venue will be open between 6.30 and 8.30 am. on Saturday and 6.30-8.00 am on Sunday.
“The pit area is within the course so anyone arriving after the road is closed has a three or four km jaunt through the forest to get to the big show.”
2018 GT Radial NZ Enduro Championship Entries to Date
104 Donald Preston
133 Jacob Brownlees
163 Lance Cargill
173 Nevil Basalaj
175 Josh Rutledge
180 Mike Fraser
189 Trevor Cooper
190 Greg Winn
250 Ron Crosby
307 Dean Graham
310 Clim-Tristan Lammers/Clim Lammers
314 Jason Mckinstry
320 Aaron Hogg Medlock
379 Joel Green
381 David Forsyth
385 Cam Stratford
507 Todd Graham
864 Neville Taylor
866 Martin van der Wal
882 Justin Leonard
898 Grant Rosenberg
C15 John Strickett
NZ1 Ben Thomasen
S17 Nathan Moore
S46 Bob Uttridge
S51 Grant Dickson and James Dickson
S55 Brent McDonald
S84 Gav Storer
S87 Dyson Delahunty
S98 Haydn Mackenzie
U10 Lucinda Maynard and Scott Hay
U30 Mike Hay
U43 Brian Rutgers
U66 Roger McKay
U69 Rosco Gaudin
U72 Scott Mitchell
U90 Jamie Mckinstry and Mike Alexander
Kiwitruck youth category (separate enduro race)
M12/NZ1 Harry Hodgson
J23/NZ3 Jack Brownlees
J26 Kelan Keith
J321 Lincoln Whiddett