Manukau racer Tony McCall added another title to what may be his most successful year yet when he took overall honours at offroad racing's new short course championship today.
Outright national champion McCall was among more than 40 of the sport's top drivers contesting the one-day Asset Finance New Zealand Short Course Championship, held on a fast and spectacular farm course at Meremere south of Auckland.
Starting from the rear of the field in each unlimited class heat, McCall hunted down and passed his key rivals every time, taking the class title and assuring himself of a clean run through to the "A-main" sudden death feature race for the overall title.
Meanwhile in the ThunderTruck class, Otakiri driver and current class champion Gary Baker went up against the biggest field of trucks seen at any event this year, including Lyndsay Dowler. Toyota Hilux V8, Ant George's massive Chev ute, the four wheel drive Toyota Tundra V8 of Clive George, the Ford F150 desert truck of Colin Sandford and the Ford falcon XR8 turbo of South Islander Bryan Chang.
The truck class races were the most incident-packed of the day, with Dowler and production-class racer Maurice Bain tangling in the first race, Ant George suffering two front flat tyres and Lyndsay Dowler hitting a tree head-on while dicing with Bryan Chang.
Rookie sensation of the day was Nevano Cowan, making his second outing in class five for cars with up to 1.3-litre engines. He took two wins and was challenging for a third when he went off the track, crashing into a hedge.
The same hedge attracted a number of other competitors throughout the day including Whakatane's Clive Thornton, who had been chasing Tony McCall then his Cougar-Chenowth slid wide and buried itself in gorse and boxthorn.
Racing for class titles was by heats, which each decided in-class national short course titles.
Leading finishers from each class were then automatically granted a start in the main feature race, while those who had not taken top placings were able to race in a "B-main" repercharge event for the chance to also advance to the feature race. The B-main was won outright by Kumeu's Ant George, who had stretched out a lead of more than 20 seconds in his big Chev ute by the time he took the chequered flag.
The title event started from a reverse grid, with Tony McCall the last away. Ain the confusion of the race start as the faster cars sought a way through to the front, Maurice Bain was budged by another truck, dislodging the tray of his Nissan Navara. Alan Tutt broke an axle on the first lap, and was towed to the infield as the race continued. Most of the faster drivers said getting cleanly through the traffic was their greatest challenge.
"If you lose momentum in a race like that then even cars that are slower can become real obstacles to progress. It's really crucial to get the rhythm right," said Donn Attwood, who won the class three heats and finished the feature fourth after running as high as second overall.
Leader through the middle distance of the 15 lap race was Clive Thornton of Whakatane, who held out the charging McCall for several laps despite a significant power deficit and weight disadvantage.