Christchurch driver Bob Uttridge has scored the Dual Crown of offroad racing, – winning both the GT Radial New Zealand Offroad Endurance Championship and the UTV Bits New Zealand Offroad Racing Short Course Championship title for 2018.
Not only that, he took both titles within weeks of each other. The endurance title came at Golden Downs forest in Nelson last month, while he won the short course (stadium) title in a day of no-holds-barred racing action on Saturday at Feilding.
Up against 60 of the fastest and toughest offroad racers in the country – and the wet and chilly weather – Uttridge took the lead in the final corner of the feature race and burst across the line to score an historic double.
A series of heats settled in-class titles, with Silverdale’s Joel Giddy besting Polaris factory racer Ben Thomasen and Uttridge as well in the S class for modified UTVs. Giddy also took fastest time of the day, a 1:13.693 for the 1.2 km course. The outright champion was only to be decided by the final race, a winner takes all ten lap feature sprint open to the fastest in each class.
As the cars gridded up, many were watching the menacing low silhouette of Tony McCall’s formula-style unlimited-class race car at the rear of the field, waiting to see him carve through and hit the front – but it was not to be. The Manukau racer started well and had carved his way through to mid-field in just a handful of laps but pulled off on the infield, his engine blowing a haze of smoke and hissing steam from the radiator header tank. He had reached seventh by the time he was forced out by overheating.
Up front, Cody Hata was making the most of conditions in his locally-built class 9 Baja Chev, which features an engine of similar specification to McCall’s but protects its radiators with a more conventional design. Hata, making a return to the sport after a full decade away, hit the front on lap two and stayed there until the white flag lap when the big car stopped dead.
Taranaki’s Gary Preston could then have taken the win in his class 8 truck but he fell victim to a massive hole on a corner at the southern end of the track and Bob Uttridge, who had been stalking the leaders for four laps, shot through to take the lead and win. Preston was second, and Leigh Bishop third. Only six racers were classified as finishers. After William van der Wal blew the transmission in dad Martin’s race truck, the best local finisher was Darryl Rush, sixth overall.
It was an historic result for affable southerner Uttridge. Just weeks earlier at Nelson he had taken out the GT Radial NZ Endurance Championship title, completing a dual crown victory not seen before in the sport. Now, making the most of a fresh Yamaha race car and a busy year of competition, the Christchurch driver is on a roll.
“New car, new performance, this year has been amazing. I’m getting plenty of seat time, and the results speak for themselves,” he said afterward.
2018 UTV Bits New Zealand Short Course Championship
1. Bob Uttridge
2. Gary Preston
3. Leigh Bishop
4. Jacob Brownlees
5. Josh Rutledge
6. Darryl Rush
7. Cody Hata/Megan Troy (DNF)
8. Dan Fromings (DNF)
9. Dion Edgecombe (DNF)
10. Andrew Carroll (DNF)
11. Dyson Delahunty (DNF)
12. Tony McCall (DNF)
13. Ron Crosby (DNF)
14. Richard Bell (DNF)
15. Justin Davies (DNF)
Kiwitruck youth category (separate races on partial course)
1. Holly Russell
2. Kelan Keith
3. Jack Brownlees
4. Reeve Giddy
1. Harry Hodgson