Auckland offroad racer Nick Hall has won the 2019 New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship by the slenderest of margins: a single point.
He completed the final race on Sunday with no rear brakes in his Chev engined Toyota Hilux. Second overall in the championship is Tauranga’s Dyson Delahunty, with Waikato racer Neil Hook third and a further point behind. It is the closest 1-2-3 margin in the history of the championship.
The championship was fought out over two days on a massive farm course at Crownthorpe near Hastings in Hawkes Bay. On Saturday the 49 championship entries contested four in-class heats, then on the following day the survivors lined up for a 240 km endurance race that would decide the title.
Hall was racing in 4WD Bits class 8 for unlimited race trucks and four wheel drives using the rear wheel drive V8 Toyota he has campaigned all year, and he was up against Whakatane’s Mal Langley in his four wheel drive Chev powered Toyota Tundra. Langley’s truck was ahead on both power and traction, but was plagued by a series of electrical and cooling issues as the day went on.
In their first heat, Hall took line honours while Langley’s truck did not finish. He did however post fastest time, a 1:35.917.
Then in the second race Langley won, Hall finishing second and cutting two seconds off the fastest lap with a 1:33.443.
Langley was unable to start heat three, leaving Hall to win comfortably ahead of the Chev of Eric Teers.
Hall repeated his performance in heat four, winning easily while Langley was once more out, this time for good. The big yellow Tundra had blown a head gasket, the first major engine failure since it was built.
Hall had qualified 19th for the 240 km endurance race, set over a narrow and twisty course that gave him few chances to stretch the big Toyota’s pace, so consistency was the order of the day. Hall dropped down the order just after the start, then began a steady run up through the field. After a three hour driving stint, stopping once for fuel, he eventually finished eighth overall and first in class.
Hall said the last two laps of Sunday’s race were completed with front brakes but no rears, making the truck hard to control on track’s many steep downhills.
Many drivers survived Saturday’s heats only to fall victim to crashes or mechanical damage the next day. The Sunday grid-up saw 43 of the original 49 entries line up to contest the enduro, a potent mix of rudge-running, water crossings, tight forest tracks and more open farm paddocks.
Among those who would not see the chequered flag were Rob Ryan of Auckland, who tore off a rear wheel on a pole at high speed, class three driver Fergus Crabb who suffered a similar fate late in the race, and UTV racers Glenn Turvey and Leigh Bishop, who both smashed their steering and front suspension.
Local Hawkes Bay drivers Dean and Todd Graham had a tough day fighting for in-class podiums. Todd Graham had damaged his car’s engine and his crew completed an overnight engine change just the make it to the start of the enduro. He started 30th and finished 23rd overall, third in class five. His father Dean rose gradually through the field from a start position of 27th to 15th overall, third in class 3.
The endurance race was won outright by former drift racer Carl Ruiterman of Pukekohe in a new Yamaha YZX prepared by E&H Motors and running in JG Civil class S for modified UTVs. Ruiterman had been chased hard by fellow Yamaha driver Joel Giddy, who struck mechanical issues two laps from home.
Giddy had the consolation of having set fastest short course lap on the Saturday (a 1:23.171) and also in the enduro (a 17:40.756). Only six competitors finished all 12 laps.
2019 New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship
Results: top ten overall