On Saturday September 9 a total of 100 race cars, four wheel drives, ‘side by side’ UTVs and utilities will take the start in the 2017 Polaris NZ 1000.
“It’s absolutely sensational,” says organiser Kevin Cooper, “We are blown away. The response from competitors is massive, and proves the iconic appeal of what has become a legendary race, the toughest endurance race in the southern hemisphere.”
The NZ 1000 is the longest and toughest endurance race in the southern hemisphere. A mix of the best features of racing and rallying, it challenges racers to complete 1000 km of high speed competition in mature production pine forest at Ohakuri on the central North Island’s volcanic plateau.
Organisers have plotted a 46 km lap that is described as ‘classic 1000’ by Kevin Cooper.
“Racers will be blasting along logging roads under tall timber at anything up to 200 km/h, then dive off onto old skid tracks barely wide enough for the big cars and trucks, then into a clearing and out onto twisty intermediate tracks,” he says.
There are five former NZ 1000 champions aiming to add this year’s race to their trophy cabinets: Clim Lammers from Hikurangi, Melvin Rouse from Whangarei, Alan Butler and Tony McCall from Auckland, and defending champion Ben Thomasen of Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty. All except Thomasen are racing in the spectacular unlimited race car class, which has the strongest presence in this year’s event with 19 entries including multiple champions McCall and Lammers along with southern drivers Greg Winn (Nelson) in a Scorpion Chev and Otago’s Donald Preston in a US-built Porter Chev.
Also making a strong showing are the UTV ‘Side by Side’ race vehicles, which are all four wheel drive and make the most of their light weight and agility to stay in touch with the unlimited classes. Across the U class for standard UTVs and the S class for the modified and turbo UTVs there are 30 entries. Defending champion Ben Thomasen is running a factory-backed Polaris RZR 1000 turbo.
Among the 100-strong entry are drivers from the Far North to south Otago, from Te Anau to Napier; there are three international crews racing.
Access to the course for this year’s Polaris NZ 1000 will be via Ohakuri Road, just south of Atiamuri, on State Highway 1. The start-finish area and pits are roughly equidistant between Tokoroa, Taupo and Rotorua, 35 minutes from each town. Racing starts at 0800 sharp each morning.