Christchurch offroad competitor Jacob Brownlees is racing against the clock this week to complete repairs to his new car in time to contest this weekend’s round of the national championship, the Mainland Challenge.
A fortnight ago Brownlees damaged the Chevrolet LS3 engine in his Aceco race car as he made his fourth attempt at Woodhill 100 in northwest Auckland. Starting off the fifth row – P11 of a full grid of 78 cars – he had fought his way through to fourth overall and was within 20 seconds of the leader. Revelling in the cool and fine conditions, Brownlees was targeting a podium finish when his engine let go on lap five of twelve.
“She just started to misfire and then that was it, no engine.”
The long drive home was enough time to plan the repair. In a manic week of work his crew, including past national champion Owen Chang, have removed the engine and replaced it, checked the rest of the car over and had it ready for tuning on an engine dyno by the Wednesday before the event.
The entry list for this weekend’s Mainland Challenge strands at 41 with the likelihood of another 5-7 late entries. The field includes the unlimited class points leader, Dan Fisher of Nelson, whose return and preparation for this weekend involved only a wash of the car and check-over for any rock damage from Woodhill, where he finished fourth. The second Brownlees car, driven by Jacob to the end of the 2018 season, will be racing with Kevin Clive at the wheel.
The overall championship points leader, Roger Mackay, races in the JG Civil UTV category but has not entered. Fast movers in the class include Bob Uttridge, Slim Slee and Ian Cowan.
The Mainland Challenge is two days of high speed race action, with family-friendly short course (stadium) racing at West Melton on Saturday and a 250 km endurance race on Sunday that starts and finishes from the West Melton track.
Offroad racing national president Martin van der Wal says this is the chance for southern competitors to start amassing points toward the championship.
“Two rounds done up north the championship now swings into the south for a classic two day race event. The fast short course track built at West Melton by the Canterbury club is superb, with enough jumps and tricky sections to keep the drivers working hard and some spectacular fast corners that have tripped the unwary in the past. The following day the surviving cars go out into the nearby forest for a multi-lap enduro but there’s still plenty to see as they return to the West Melton raceway every lap,” he said.
There will be separate races for the sport’s youth category, Kiwitrucks.
The 2019 Mainland Challenge takes place Saturday and Sunday June 15-16. Racer and spectator access is on Weedons Ross Road, with racing due to start at 10.30 am on Saturday and 10 am Sunday. Spectator admissioin is $10, under 15s are free.