top-nav-left top-nav-right

Article Search

 
clear

Offroad: North Is racers on last chance points drive

 

South Island drivers lead every class in the 2006 Easy Loans New Zealand Offroad Racing National Championship going into September's final North island regional round, and the top teams from the warmer island are preparing for their last chance to take back a points advantage before the national final in the Bay of Plenty.

South Island drivers lead every class in the 2006 Easy Loans New Zealand Offroad Racing National Championship going into September's final North island regional round, and the top teams from the warmer island are preparing for their last chance to take back a points advantage before the national final in the Bay of Plenty.

The North Island sub-championship will also be decided in the final regional round, which will be raced over a new course at Meremere on September 3.

Organising committee member and leading North Island racer Tony McCall is promising the fastest, most spectacular course yet seen in the 2006 Championship, and has taken track design as a personal responsibility.

With many years in the sport and two detours into speedway under his belt, McCall says he is focussed on making the track fast and exciting.

"We will not be plotting a car breaker - there's no fun for drivers in smashing up gear and that's not what spectators come to see. We want to make a track where the cars are racing side by side over jumps, cracking the old ton or more down the straights and throwing huge rooster tails of dirt in the air."
McCall, along with Drury's Kevin Hall, are likely to be front-runners in their class, and McCall in particular is smarting at having "temporarily" lost his overall points lead to Dave Parret of Christchurch.

"This is where the racing will be at its most spectacular - we each have our own goals going into this one, but most of all the top drivers need to score every single point they can in order to get back alongside the South Islanders."

Manukau-based McCall has dropped to sixth, with five four South Island drivers ahead of him including class one leader - and thus class title rival - Ben Charles of Nelson. McCall says he will be going all-out in the short course races to maximise his overall points score for the weekend.

Kevin Hall drives a meticulously-prepared 1.6-litre Chenowth single-seater and is consistently on class-winning pace.

Like McCall, he is now languishing well down the points table and needs perfect scores to claw his way back into contention before the final round. He is likely to face off against Warren Rogers, who won the class at the previous round in the Hawkes Bay.

In class five for 1.3-litre cars, Hawkes Bay's Dean Graham is undisputed class points challenger and the only other North Island driver besides McCall to remain in the top ten overall points standings.

In the popular Challenger class for cars with 1.6-litre VW engines, Shawn Dickins is the leading North island driver and remains just outside the overall top ten.

The big truck class looks set to turn on crowd-pleasing race action, with the V8-powered utilities of Lyndsay Dowler, Gary Baker and others lining up to do battle. Race truck action is a firm favourite with spectators and the ThunderTruck fields have been their strongest ever.

One racer unlikely to make the start line is Shayne Huxtable of Hawkes Bay, whose business burned to the ground this month, completely destroying his Chev powered ThunderTruck along with a number of customer cars. Huxtable was second on points for the class behind Christchurch's Bryan Chang; unless he is able to borrow a vehicle to enter the event his class position is likely to fall to baker, Dowler or possibly Colin Sandford in the massive AFWE Ford F150 desert truck.

For all the North Island teams, this event is likely to be the first time they have raced in fine weather in this Championship season. The opening North Island round at the same venue was held in heavy rain, as was the second round in the Hawkes Bay. Many of those who managed to score points at these previous rounds will be looking forward to a weekend of fine weather.

Short course racing will get under way at 10.30 am and continue until a lunch break at 12.30. The short course track is just 2.2 km around, and each race is over four laps.

Tony McCall says the whole of this course and the longer 5 km lap for the afternoon's 160 km feature race will be visible from the official spectator areas.

The feature race has been named the Laurance Strude Memorial event in memory of offroad racing identity Strude who passed away earlier this year.

"Laurance was a huge supporter of the sport and took on the jobs other people shied away from. He crewed over the years for most of the top names in the sport, and was also a walking encyclopaedia of technical information. His absence is felt by everyone in the sport, and this is one way we can recognise his contribution," said McCall.

Up to 50 cars are expected to take the start line at Meremere on September 3.

Mark Baker


Auto Trader New Zealand