Spectacular championship offroad race action returns to Nelson August 15 and 16 when local driver Dennis Andreassend and defending national champion Daniel Powell of Christchurch do battle for the title of South Island champion
Also at stake is the lead in the national championship, which is currently held by Dennis Andreassend.
The action takes place at two different venues. On Saturday August 15 the fastest racers in the South Island compete in short course stadium-style racing on the Heslop raceway at the Nelson A&P showgrounds in Richmond.
Andreassend won the first round, held at Nelson during Anzac Weekend, outright. Two months later, he managed to hold onto the lead in the second round at Christchurch, pushing his Cougar Evo race car to the limit to stay with the larger and more powerful American-built Jimco of Powell.
Now he must fight for the championship lead, the South Island outright title and can only take the advantage by winning the weekend overall. A complicated points format means racers can only count two of their three rounds, dropping their worst result, in order to carry a points position through to the national final at Labour Weekend.
Convoluted backroom mathematics aside, Andreassend say this means Nelson motorsport fans can count on a spectacular showing at both the short course and the endurance race on the Sunday.
“Short course racing is very exciting for drivers, race crews and spectators. It’s as much of a contact sport as you will see in motorsport these days, the last place where racing really means racing.”
The 165 km enduro to be tackled the next day is similar in character to the race that started Andreassend’s championship campaign at Dunedin. The course is in the hilly forests of the “Snowpark” used last year, which is accessed from the top of Spooners Hill. Last year the race went ahead with a dusting of snow on the course and ice on the big puddles racers had to drive through.
Andreassend said the forest course may well suit his Cougar better than the big turbocharged Jimco.
“There’s only one way to know, isn’t there?”
Adding further excitement to the championship tussle between Andreassend and Powell is the presence of at least three other top unlimited-class racers.
Local driver Clayton Burrow will front up in the Kumeu Transport Engineering sponsored class, as will Ashley in his Nissan turbo powered car and Christchurch driver Geoff Densem in the Advanced Motorsports Ryan VW single-seater.
Racing in the Pine Harbour Painters Super 1600 class are Wayne Moriarty, Nigel Sutherland and Bruce Rolls.
Carrying local hopes in the Southern Lakes Transmissions Super 1300 class is Haydn Andreassend, son of Dennis Andreassend. He is up against Queenstown’s Donald McMillan, Clint and Ryan Densem.
There is a lone class nine “Baja” entry – a VW-bodied race car like the ones that kicked off the sport in the USA in the 1950s. That car will be driven by Gary Cooper.
The V-Dub Shoppe Challenger class will rekindle a season-long battle between Matthew Pratt and Paul Cooper, with Barry Phillips and Scott Campbell also entered.
In the Camco Offroad truck classes, production-class honours will be fought out between Steven Boyd, Carl Gardiner, Blair Prebble and Tod Johnson. The production class is proving popular in the South Island, with diverse four wheel drive machinery including Isuzu Mu, Suzuki jeeps, Isuzu Bighorn/Trooper all turning out to race in the affordable class.
Class four for improved or “sport” trucks will see a resumption of the battle between the Toyota Hilux trucks of defending champion Simon Smith and Nelson’s Darrin Thomason, with John Ratcliff and Neville Taylor also looking to score points.
The unlimited truck class, ThunderTrucks, has two entries: the V8 Land Rover of Blenheim driver Mark French will grid up against the supercharged V8-engined Land Cruiser of Donald Preston.
The 2009 Nelson Ruff’n’Tuff race weekend is presented by local sponsors the Heslop Group, Waimea Contract Carriers, Total Oil, VINZ, and Supercharge batteries. Racing on Saturday at the A&P showgrounds gets under way at 12.30; the enduro the next day starts at 10.30. Admission to Saturday’s racing is $4.00 adults, children under 14 free; admission on Sunday at the enduro track is free.