There were surprise results and upsets in the sixth round of the off-road racing national championship at Matata near Whakatane last Saturday.
Neville (Max) Smith of Beachlands gave his advanced new Cougar its first race win after battling for almost 165km with Hawke’s Bay’s Shayne Huxtable.
Aucklander Alan Butler shared the Super 1600 class win in his new Cougar 07 with West Auckland’s Donn Attwood.
Whakatane drivers were also on the podium. Clive Thornton was third in the unlimited Class 1 short course heats, second in the enduro, and third in the class for the North Island title.
The most notable result for the locals was Clive George, who won ThunderTruck in his Chevrolet V8-engined Toyota Tundra 4WD, also winning the ThunderTruck North Island title.
George’s North Island title was handed over by his clubmate and 2006 ThunderTruck champion, Gary Baker, who is also the defending national champion.
They raced hard throughout the heats, at one point coming together at high speed while overtaking a slower truck.
The overall defending national champion, Manukau’s Tony McCall, saw his national title defence falter in Race 3 when his SFL Cougar 07 smashed its Porsche differential on a steep climb.
He had won the first two heats and was preparing to overtake Huxtable to move into the Race 3 lead when the diff broke.
There was disappointment too for Albany’s Richard Crabb, who rolled his new Toyota-powered Super 1600 single-seater at the start of the endurance race and was later forced to withdraw when his rear suspension broke.
Crabb had led the morning’s first heat until his car’s gear selector cable fused itself to the exhaust pipe.
Hawke’s Bay’s Dean Graham, defending national class 5 champion, also fell out of contention in the enduro when he was forced to stop and make repairs to his ignition system, which was shorting out.
Neville Smith, co-founder of the Cougar race car design, gave his sophisticated new Cougar its debut win in the enduro.
The car runs an intercooled Honda VTEC turbo engine, sequential gearbox and dry sump lubrication.
It makes extensive use of carbon fibre and other composite materials to minimise weight. It now has an Albins sequential five-speed transmission and a rally-style anti-lag system to keep the turbocharger spinning between gear changes.
With McCall sidelined, Smith and Huxtable fought a spirited race within a race, chasing early enduro leader George and then battling for the outright lead when he was forced to withdraw.
“Shayne and I had a fantastic battle through the middle part of the enduro, and I really got to grips with the engine’s power characteristics,” Smith said.
Late in the race, Huxtable’s rear suspension broke, forcing him to pit. Bringing Thornton into second place in his Australian Southern Cross V6.
Whangarei’s Melvin Rouse followed Thornton through to hold third. Although Huxtable rejoined, he was forced out with mechanical failure as the race entered its final 10 laps.
Smith was the unchallenged winner, Thornton second and Chris Whyte third when Rouse also struck mechanical problems.
The outright North Island champion is West Aucklander Shaun Dickins who is the defending national champion in the VW-powered Challenger class. McCall is second outright and Class 1 champion. Attwood is third outright and Super 1600 champ.