Spectacular crashes, wildlife incidents claim top contenders
After 200 km with a misbehaving engine, John Morgan has won his first Woodhill 100, adding his name to the 36 others on the trophy and giving his Desert Dynamics Chev two-seater its first major title.
His epic run with a misfiring engine began from P5 on the grid and improved lap by lap as other unlimited-class racers fell by the wayside.
Whangarei’s Jardyne Lammers had taken pole and the early lead. But was one of the first casualties, dropping back as the first lap proceeded then plummeting off the leader board and out of the event.
Rene Sciarone was the event’s first major incident, hitting a deer at checkpoint four on Coast Road. The impact with the juvenile deer slewed his car across the road and he rolled into the trees. Sciarone was unhurt but unable to continue.
Setting out on a determined drive up the race order, Morgan set fastest time of the day on lap two – a 12.51 sec lap – while chasing down early leader Tony McCall.
The race was jam-packed with action and drama and much of it centred on the unlimited race cars: P3 starter Tony McCall had seized the lead after the first lap but was almost immediately out with an electrical issue that handed the lead to Morgan.
Steven Stokes had started P4 and quickly powered through to second at the end of lap two but dropped out of contention on lap seven and was sixth at the finish. Former multiple winner Clim Lammers also fell victim to electrical issues, completing only half the race distance. Christchurch’s Jacob Brownlees was hit by class 9 racer Maurice Bain and was out with a severed crank angle sensor wire. He had also broken a suspension strut bolt.
The 90 degree corner after the high speed start-finish straight claimed its share of racers. Trevor Cooper crashed through the barriers at turn one in his massive American-built Jimco; Campbell Witheford struck them a glancing blow in his smaller Kiwi-built Cougar VW; Gregg Carrington Hogg gathered in a good few and parked on them in his class 9 Chev powered Baja car, and Albany’s Mike Fraser barrel-rolled over the top of them.
Last year’s winner and defending champion, Fraser was on a charge from a P20 qualifying spot up the field but crashed out spectacularly at the beginning of lap 3 while fourth overall.
He said he landed on his wheels “so I waved the marshals away and got back on the track but it was obvious the car wasn’t right and I didn’t want to damage it for nothing”. The Motomuck/Wheelmuck Racer Engineering Toyota V8 single-seater was parked at the end of the lap.
Jono Climo had started sixth and best of the 4WD Bits unlimited class race trucks, but disaster struck before the end of the first lap when the main battery feed fuse spiked and killed power midway around a corner, leaving the truck stranded.
“We watched as the rest of the field bounced off and around the sides of us and into the distance. Using my harness buckle I managed to arc across the fuse posts to start the truck to move it off the track. We then bypassed the fuse to get us going,” he said.
As he started his fight back, he was hit in the head by a large rock that cracked his helmet visor in half.
“We struggled around track with my left hand over my eye for protection before our 3rd gremlin kicked in……the throttle jammed wide open with 668hp trying to escape!”
Climo limped the big truck back to the pits and sorted the throttle problem – a rock jammed in the linkage.
He would finish a lap down on class winner Grant ‘Rowdy’ Rosenburg, who started 44th and finished 14th.
John Morgan’s perseverance with his misbehaving car was rewarded with a welcome chequered flag. He finished 3:40 ahead of second-placed Brendon Midgely. His elapsed time for the full 200 km distance was an exceptional 2:33.07. Only nine cars finished on the lead lap and completed the full 200 km; 50 of the original 78 were able to complete enough distance to be classified winners.
2017 North Harbour Vehicles/Grabtruck.co.nz Woodhill 100
John Morgan (winner class 1)
Brendon Midgely (winner HasTrak class 3)
Ben Thomasen (winner JG Civil S class)
Carl Ruiterman (winner U class)
Tim Ackers (winner HasTrak Challenger class)
Todd Graham (winner class 5)