With the Geyserland 4WD and Sam Baddely having been amongst the pioneers of the NZ
Winch Challenge scene, up in the Mamaku Forest, we thought it would be appropriate to
have our first “Throwback Thursday” winch challenge coverage from their iconic 2010 event,
where the mud holes were freezing over between trucks – even in the afternoon stages – up
SPECIAL THANKS TO ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHERS.
What do you expect, it’s Mamaku, it’s the middle of winter, of course it’s cold!
But at least this year it wasn’t raining – or snowing- for the 2010 Rotorua Winch
Scrutineering kicked off in brilliant frosty sunshine at Rotorua’s Kingsgate Hotel, on
the morning of Friday 9th, and by midday competitors and marshalls were heading on out to
the afternoon and night stages in farmland on the edge of the Waikite Valley, just south of
Drama wasn’t long in coming, with one of the event favourites coming to grief on
only his 4th hazard. Just winching out of a pretty innocent looking mud hole Raana Horan had
the internals of his GQ Nissans transfer case let go in a fairly noisy way, requiring a recovery
from the stage marshalls, resulting in a DNF.
Furious work by the crew had the unit replaced in time for the single night stage,
after event organisers canceled the second due to time concerns, but the damage had been
done, with the points lost creating a points deficit the team were battling all weekend.
Friday also saw major dramas for club class entrant Peter Haig’s XJ Cherokee, when it
caught fire while well and truly stuck in the infamous long bog.
After being unable to set the ground anchor, and creating a couple of pretty
substantial furrows in the surrounding farmland, a burst power steering hose had liberally
coated everything under the bonnet with hot oil, and up she went.
Following their unlucky second place at the NZ1 event in Blenheim last month, local
heroes Aaron Smythe and Doug Cooper were hoping to go one better this weekend, and win
their home event for the first time.
By the end of the first night they were on target to achieve this, leading the
standings as the crews headed back to Rotorua. Helping their case was their first set of
brand new tyres for several years, from new supporters, Silverstone.
Day 2 started at 8am in a spectacular frost covered Mamaku forest, with the
temperature still showing zero degrees at 10.30am, and the first crews smashing through
thick ice on the many bogs and water holes that are always part of the RWC.
Back on song after their dramas on day 1, Raana and co-driver Mike Connor, with
nothing to lose were really on a mission, while Owen ( Fluffy) Fillery and David Morrison
were marking their return to the event with a very competitive performance.
In the club class Daniel Cleaver and Graeme Hawthorne were making no race of it,
and with Both Glen Raymond and Peter Hall training new navigators as they got into the
day, had a bit of a buffer on the field.
However with Glens son Kurtis, and Peters new inductee Chris Mac, catching on
really quickly there was a real competition developing between them, and the top pair had
only to make one mistake, and they would have been right on them!
The day’s second night stage gave the Smythe/ Cooper crew their first real dramas of
the event, with a failing alternator unable to power the yellow Nissans bank of spotlights,
and creating a real possibility of engine shut down.
Rather than risk that, or running off the course in the dark, Doug took off running the
track, with Aaron following on sidelights alone, just following the reflection from Dougs hi-
It was the slowest time of the night, but they finished the stage, retained their clear
record for the event, and headed for home still in the lead.
Day 3 started just as early, and just as cold, and even further into the forest, but with
only half the number of stages, the event due to finish at midday.
Once again it was straight into it for the top 3, with no-one else able to match their
Horan and Connor hit trouble early when Raana put the truck on its side, and the
engine free revved itself almost to destruction on the oil that had siphoned into the air
cleaner during the recovery.
Smythe and Cooper were fastest on the “Wall of death” but Raana won what was
becoming the notorious stage 11, when a clip fell out of the PTO control of the Aarons
Nissan, and they had to limp out of the stage with the winch drive spinning in Neutral, but
after replacing the pin between stages, he immediately took out fastest time on the “tank
And that was how it ended. With three days of very fast times, but a controlled
approach to the whole event, it was a commanding performance. Right from the beginning
it was obvious the local team were going to be the ones to beat, and they just gave no one a
chance to take the win away.
In club class the Cleaver – Hawthorne pairing were just as dominant, going on to win
by just under 200 points from the father and son Raymond team. Peter Hall and Chris Mac
were struggling with a failing water pump throughout the last day, and fell off the pace to
finish 3 rd, another 200 points back.
• 1 st : Aaron Smythe & Doug Cooper (Nissan 4.2)
• 2 nd :Raana Horan & Mike Connor (Nissan V8)
• 3 rd : Owen Fillery & David Morrison (Toyota/ Chev)
• 4 th : Stan Goodman & Heath Johnstone (Toyota/ Chev)
• 5 th : Ben Sanderson & Cameron Burrows (Toyota/ Chev)
• 6 th : Tony Differ & Brent Purcell (Nissan/ Chev)
• 7 th : Gene Batty & Dallas Collier (Hilux/ Lexus V8)
• 8 th : Travis Nicholls & Clayton Nicholls
• 1 st : Daniel Cleaver & Graeme Hawthorne (Suzuki)
• 2 nd : Glen Raymond & Kurtis Raymond (Landrover V8)
• 3 rd : Peter Hall & Chris Mac ( Suzuki/ Toyota)
• 4 th : Peter Haigh & Nathan Phillips (Jeep Cherokee)
• 5 th : Craig Owen & Tai Owen (Landcruiser 40)
• 6 th : Daniel Hill & Melissa Davie (Suzuki)
• 7 th : Kevon Feickert & Thor Feickert (Suzuki/ Prado)