- More than 80 race cars and trucks grid up for punishing 250km event
- Nelson’s Basalaj heads north to target outright win
- 35th year for classic offroad endurance race
A titanic battle under the pines is in store this weekend as a record field of offroad race cars and trucks contests the 35th annual Woodhill 100 offroad endurance race.
With entries currently standing at 85, organisers are promising spectacular race action in the qualifying sprints on Saturday and at the main event on Sunday May 31.
The Woodhill 100 is the sport’s oldest and toughest one day endurance race and is the only major motorsport event held in Woodhill Forest, northwest of Auckland.
This year, the race has its highest number of ‘big bangers’ ever, meaning the front 10 rows of the grid will boast more horsepower – and more than twice the torque – of a current Formula One race grid.
Race day will see 11 or more of the sport’s spectacular unlimited-class race trucks line up for a shot at victory including two-times winner Raana Horan.
To take the chequered flag this year, the truck class racers must first claw their way through a field that includes nine unlimited class race cars and 16 class three (1.6-litre) car, with a massive ten car entry in the new Polaris-backed UTV class adding to the race-day mayhem.
Competitors have come from many parts of the country, including the South Island. Leading entries include Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj, who is bringing his massive Jimco Chev race car north to add the Woodhill trophy to his cabinet and will go wheel to wheel with the likes of multiple Woodhill winner Tony McCall of Manukau, driving his single-seater BSL Terra Chev.
Most of the unlimited race cars of Achilles Radial class one are V8 powered, exceptions being Alan Butler (US-built Chenowth Millennium with Mistubishi Evo turbo power) and James Buchanan (US-built Tatum with Mitsubishi Evo power). Both are former Woodhill 100 winners.
With intense competition expected in every class, race pundits are tipping the unlimited-class cars and trucks for the win but also say the 1600cc class three field bears watching. The agile Polaris and Can Am UTVs have shown strong form in the forest in the past two years but never been able to stay at the front as the race wears on.
Organisers say for many racers, the Woodhill 100 has long been the event they most want to win. The punishing nature of the course has always meant even finishing the event is a major accomplishment.
In its 35th year, the Woodhill 100 has gone back to its roots, with a course plotted on the many sand tracks and under the canopy of the pine forest that blankets the northwestern dunes of the region.
Experienced racers say the sand tracks are best tackled flat-out in order to avoid damaging suspension in the many dips and hollows of the course. Racers must also watch for hard tree roots that can pinch a tyre or snag a front wheel with disastrous results.
Qualifying sprints to determine grid position will be held on Saturday 30 May between 9am to 4pm at Black Sand Quarry in Pulpit Rock Rd, Waimauku. The Kiwitruck youth category will also race their own Woodhill enduro on a specially marked course at qualifying.
The 2015 Stihl Shop/ North Harbour Isuzu Woodhill 100 starts at 11 am on Sunday, with forest access from Trig Road, South Head.
The General came back to Twizel at Easter and took the major prize.
In an endurance event that listed ten finishers from a total event entry of 40, that took competitors over 250 km of high country glacial valley racing, Aucklanders Ernie Hogg and Mike Fraser made good on their promise to return and take the trophy.
Their Scorpion-based two-seater unlimited-class race car runs in the livery of the General Lee from the popular TV series and movie the Dukes of Hazzard, complete with Confederate flag and bright orange paintwork.
Like the original General, their car is V8 powered, though in the case of the offroad race car the grunt comes from a hybrid spec Chev engine based on an LS2.
The MacKenzie Properties Twizel 250 race weekend opened the southern leg of the 2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship. Held over two days on land beside the massive Ohau hydro canal, the event featured a first day of short course racing followed by the 250 itself, with points divided equally between the two days. Though Hogg and Fraser were not able to amass points (having begun their championship season with the northern round) they were able to score podium results.
In the short course racing, the battle in the Achilles Radial-backed unlimited class was between Hogg and three Nelson drivers: Nevil Basalaj, Ash Kelly and Cam Stratford.
Though many were picking Kelly’s ex-McCall Cougar Evo VW to dominate, it was Basalaj in the Jimco V6 who ran out the winner of the heats.
Hogg and Fraser were the most consistent threat to Basalaj over the short course heats and for several laps of one heat had the big orange two-seater ahead of the eventual winner.
The Jimco is an ‘evolved’ 2004 car that has run at the Baja 1000 and was NZ national champion at the hands of Kevin Charles. With development work by Andrew Thomason, it is a formidable opponent in short course racing though – like the General – its natural home is in endurance racing. It runs a race-prepared Chev V6 engine and is the quickest Jimco in this country by a significant margin.
In class two for production race trucks and 4Wds, the competition was equally intense. Ian Simcox is running a Mitsubishi Pajero Evo, the road version produced to homologate the Pajero for Dakar. Originally built by Neville ‘Max’ Smith in Auckland, the trtuvck has pedigree extending to several Taupo 1000 races and is significantly more powerful than the Suzuki of fellow Christchurch racer Stephen Boyd. Boyd and Ron Campbell were the rest of the class two field, but took the fight to Simcox in every heat, with Boyd rubbing door handles with the Simcox Evo lap after lap. The short course jump, however, was where the Evo showed its breeding and where Simcox showed his commitment to the race win.
Production trucks and the class four modified trucks are not natural jumpers, in fact many choose to brake on the up-ramp of steep jumps, aware of the havoc the landings will cause to standard suspension.
Simcox ran out the winner in all three heats, with Boyd second in each race; Ron Crosby third.
Class three for race cars with engines up to 1.6 litre engines is usually the property of Christchurch racer Wayne Moriarty in his Euroblast Alumicraft Toyota, but at Twizel he was harried to every finish by Nelson racer Greg Winn in his strong RV Magnum two-seater. Winn’s car is a former national champion at the hands of previous owner Donn Attwood. Both cars run versions of Toyota’s timeless 4AGE engine.
Third in class but down on points after a DNF in race one was Alex MacIndoe.
Class four for ‘improved’ trucks and 4WDs marked the return to championship racing of Nelson’s Darrin Thomason. Formerly a class champion in a Nissan Navara ute, Thomason has had a break from the sport and is now developing a Mitsubishi Pajero V6. He was slowed by an early misfire, but managed to win all three heats. Dave Ballantyne was second in the first class four race but damaged his Nissan Terrano and retired.
Race wins in class five were shared between Joel Green (two) and Graham Fleming.
In Challenger class the race weekend highlighted generational change. While event organiser Barry Phillips has been trying “for ages’ to win his class at his home event, it was down to his son Jake to bring home the short course trophy.
Nelson’s John Strickett won the first heat but mechanical damage forced him out in heat two, leaving Jake Phillips a straight run to the chequered flag.
Dad Barry says the win was well fought and he was (grudgingly) happy to see his son score the win.
The big trucks in the unlimited class were a firm favourite among the 2,000-strong crowd. With seven entries, the class was equal biggest with the UTVs and the action started on the first lap of heat one.
Donald Preston raced the championship last year in the UTV class, letting son Paul run his supercharged Toyota Hilux V8. This year dad was back in the big truck and out to challenge national champion Owen Chang for the title. That went wrong on the first lap when he ran wide at the bottom corner as the field swept through to the front straight. The Hilux slewed sideways through a berm, over the used tyre all that marks the edge of the track, then rolled onto its side. What appeared superficial damage at first glance masked two split oil coolers, putting the Hilux on the trailer for the day.
Richard Knowles in his new Holden V8 ute had a second in that first heat behind Otago’s Carl Gardner in a new Nissan V8 ute imported from Australia. Gardner went on to take a second win and a fourth, Knowles coming back after damaging his front suspension in heat two to win the final race.
But once again, the championship pace was set by Christchurch’s Owen Chang, running in the GT Radial Ford Falcon turbo Pro Lite. With a four cylinder turbo engine and rear wheel drive, Chang was consistently quickest off the line, having to drive around slower-starting trucks from his bad-luck grid positions at the rear of each grid.
A boost issue slowed the truck in the first heats, but third place in the first heat and then second in the next two brought him through the racing in second place for the class.
The Polaris-backed UTV class brought some madness to proceedings with a seven-strong and closely matched grid of racers. Tim George’s blindingly-fast new Polaris won the first two heats convincingly, then he rolled the car in the third heat, causing a brief delay. Righted, he was able to rejoin for the restart and finished fifth. Seasoned racer Roger McKay took the honours for the day with two second places and a win in the third heat.
The sport’s youth category is passionately supported in the south by sisters Brooke and Jorja Storer, both running immaculately turned out yellow J-class Kiwitrucks. Brooke took a brace of wins – and won their Sunday race as well – to take maximum points ahead of Jorja.
The stage was set for the endurance race, the toughest test of the weekend. Overnight, many crews would work to repair race damage to get to the start line of a 250 km race that is unique in the sport.
Into the valley
Hammering across a glacial valley at 200 km/h or more, wondering if the rear tyres are still doing their job or if the sharp flinty frost-shattered rock in the loamy soil have shredded a sidewall. Weaving through thick plumes of dust and trying to make clean passes on lapped traffic. Hitting massive natural jumps at 100 km/h or more and having time to count off the ‘air time’ in seconds before landing.
That’s the challenge, risk and reward of the Twizel 250.
Ernie Hogg came to this race a year ago to test the General against this unique endurance race and ran hard all the way to the race finish. Flat tyres forced him into the pits again and again as he pursued eventual winner Nevil Basalaj.
This year, Hogg was once more battling the course as well as fellow competitors – but this time he emerged the winner. The raider from the north took home the Twizel 250 trophy along with a couple of smashed wheel rims and a tick coating of dust and glacial loam.
Off the start, Nevil Basalaj went out hard with Ashley Kelly in hot pursuit. Hogg slotted into third place as the field sorted itself out. Tim George was the best of the UTvs in fourth overall.
As the field completed the first 13.5 km lap of the track, Basalaj remained in control, Kelly second and Wayne Moriarty had carved through from fifth to be third. Hogg dropped back to fifth, though still in touch. Roger McKay was now best of the UTVs, fourth overall.
By lap four of 19, Ernie Hogg had clawed his way back to the leading bunch, second overall and chasing Basalaj. Ash Kelly was out, having posted fastest lap of the day, 9:03.433 sec with a whole-lap average speed just under 90 km/h. Owen Chang was third and first truck, battling with Carl Gardner. Donald Preston had managed to make a temporary repair to the Hilux but only lasted two laps.
For two brief laps, Roger McKay burst into the lead as Nevil Basalaj struck problems and dropped to tenth; then the General hit the front and was never headed.
Ernie Hogg brushed off punctures, wheel damage and late-race gear selection issues to stay in front to the chequered flag, leading the race for almost half the total distance. He was the only racer to complete the full distance.
Overall classification, MacKenzie Properties Twizel 250
1. Ernie Hogg (winner Achilles Radial class 1)
2. Greg Winn (winner class 3)
3. Grant Dixon (winner Polaris UTV class)
4. James Dixon
5. Steven Boyd (winner class 2)
6. Ian Simcox
7. Roger McKay
8. Ron Crosby
9 Owen Chang (winner class 8)
10 Nevil Basalaj
Points, South Island sector, ENZED Offroad Racing Championship (top ten)
Ian Simcox 66
Greg Winn 66
Nevil Basalaj 64
Steven Boyd 63
Roger McKay 59
Grant Dixon 57
Owen Chang 57
Ron Crosby 50
Darrin Thomason 48
Joel Green 46
Class points, South Island Sector, ENZED Offroad Racing Championship
Achilles Radial class one
Nevil Basalaj 64
Ash Kelly 30
Cam Stratford 24
Ian Simcox 66
Steven Boyd 63
Ron Crosby 50
Greg Winn 66
Wayne Moriarty 36
Alex McIndoe 16
Darrin Thomason 48
Dave Ballantyne 10
Joel Green 46
Graham Forsythe 32
Owen Chang 57
Carl Gardner 40
Gavin Storer 30
Rosco Gaudin 36
Wade Halliday 22
Jake Phillips 34
John Strickett 24
Roger McKay 59
Grant Dixon 57
James Dixon 41
Brooke Storer 36
Jorja Storer 32
ENZED Offroad Racing Championship rocks Twizel
A bewildering array of high powered offroad racing vehicles will invade Twizel next weekend as the town hosts the second round of the 2015 ENZED offroad racing championship.
More than 40 cars are expected to take the start in the two-day event, which is the first of the year in the South Island and is a firm favourite with the top teams. Racers crome from many parts of New Zealand to race this unqiue event, including Ernie Hogg, who is bringing his Scorpion Chev V8 unlimited class car all the way from Auckland. Ernie Hogg contested the Twizel race last year and says the unique challenge of racing on the massive glacial moraine farm has drawn him back for another crack at the event.
The Achilles Radial ‘unlimited’ truck class has the strongest entry in the event and promises spectacular action. In all, there are seven unlimited-class trucks entered.
Winton driver Donald Preston is back, aiming to wrest the class 8 truck title away from Christchurch’s Owen Chang.
After a dalliance in the UTV class while his son ran his big V8 4WD Toyota Hilux, Preston has once more returned to the ultimate truck class.
The Preston Hilux is one of the fastest race trucks in the sport, and can be expected to take a string of podium finishes in the short course racing on Saturday.
Another Otago driver, Carl Gardner, has stepped up from his 1.6-litre class three race car to a Nissan Navara V8 ute imported from Australia.
Karl Vinton has bought a Toyota Supra-engined Hilux previously campaigned by Auckland’s Dale Buckley.
Christchurch’s Gavin Storer has entered his Toyota V6 powered 4WD ute.
Saturday’s action starts at 11.00 am at the Ohau Channel Road and takes the form of ‘short course’ racing on a compact track that enables spectators to see the entire course from one location. Organiser Barry Phillips of Twizel says the course is overlooked by a low hill that forms an ideal area for spectators to enjoy the action from – enjoying the comfort of their cars or on picnic blankets in front on the edge of the slope.
The next day the field will contest a 250 kilometre multi-lap endurance race that starts from the same area as Saturday’s short course. The track will run west on the glacial soils of the valley which create a race surface like no other round of the championship, returning in a giant loop of ten kilometres of more. The glacial loam is soft but peppered with sharp rocks embedded by ancient glaciers that can shred a tyre in an instant. The deceptive conditions and fast course have extracted a heavy toll from competitors in past years.
“The Twizel 250 weekend is fast becoming a legend in offroad racing, to the extent that we have at least one competitor coming all the way from Auckland to race the unique course we set out here. There’s going to be a lot to see and enjoy over the two days of racing.”
Achilles Radial Class 1
Nevil Basalaj 173
Ernie Hogg 190
Daniel Powell 118
Cam Stratford 185
Ash Kelly 192
Ron Crosby 250
Steven Boyd 218
Ian Simcox 217
Greg Winn 371
Wayne Moriarty 312
Alex McIndoe 399
Darrin Thomason 444
Dave Ballantyne 497
Joel Green 552
Graham Fleming 572
Carl Gardner 841
Richard Knowles 890
Karl Vinton 852
Gavin Storer 840
Don Preston 800
Bryan Chang 847
James Fleming 811
Rosco Gaudin 1069
Wade Halliday 1085
Murdock Halliday 1019
Jake Phillips C45
John Strickett C22
Mike Holmes U21
Grant Dixon U15
Bob Uttridge U46
Roger MacKay U66
Tim George U68
James Dixon U07
Jorja Storer J31
Brooke Storer J39
· Rollovers and crashes as racers jostle for advantage
· New names top the points table
After a day of spectacular crashes and rollovers on a challenging farm course, three drivers have emerged with a shared lead in the 2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship.
Warren Adams made a clean sweep of racing in class six for challenge-style four wheel drives in his V8 engined Nissan, Scott Buckley likewise took three wins from three starts in class 10 for motorcycle-engined cars in his BSL Terra Nova, and in the youth Kiwitruck class new racer Boston Horan took three wins from three starts in Little Black. The trio all took a maximum 72 points from the day’s racing.
Summer’s long dry spell meant a rain shower the previous day did little to dampen the track, which became dusty as racing got under way. A strong wind helped clear thick dust off the racing line but rollovers and crashes were numerous.
In class 10, Jimmie Johnston’s challenge on Scott Buckley ended when he clipped a UTV racer’s wheel and barrel-rolled his new class 10 car out of contention.
There were multiple crashes and rollovers in the opening Challenger/class five race but all the cars involved were able to return to competition in subsequent heats.
One of the most spectacular crashes brought the first heat for the Achilles Radial-backed unlimited class race cars – shared with the class nine ‘Baja’ and prototype cars – to a halt partway through the first lap. Manukau-based Tony McCall had taken the lead off the start line in his ENZED BSL Terra V8 but was tipped over in a tight corner, bringing the race to a halt under the red flag. Alan Hilliam’s Porsche-powered single-seater hit McCall’s car in thick dust, flipping it over. The McCall car then settled upside down on the front of Hilliam’s and the latter was out of the racing with smashed front suspension.
Once righted, McCall was able to restart and made short work of the heat win.
He topped that with another win and then was third overall in the final heat where McCall, Hogg and Buchanan went three wide into the first corner, a blind brow left hander. As the trio crested the brow McCall missed a downshift, allowing the other two to get ahead. With no safe way to chase the leading two down in thick dust he settled for third.
“There was no way to fight back in the dust without putting myself at risk, so I decided to stick with third place and bank the points. It’s all about the championship title this year,” he said afterward.
Out front Ernie Hogg had the ‘General’, his two-seater Chev-engined Scorpion race car, flying over the fast jump back onto the start-finish straight. His winning margin was more than four seconds over Buchanan, McCall another seven seconds back.
“When you get clear air you just have to make the most of it and go as hard as you can, especially in short course heats. The car was going really well,” said Hogg afterward.
In the unlimited class trucks, there was a pitched battle between Nick Hall (ELF Toyota Hilux Pro Lite) and the Kumho Toyota Hilux trophy truck of Jono Climo. Hall’s truck runs a Chev V8 and is rear wheel drive; Climo’s features a quad-cam turbocharged Toyota V8 and four wheel drive. Though the latter is heavier, its superior traction, suspension travel and power won out on the technical but fast course.
A grass-clogged radiator marred Climo’s otherwise perfect run, overheating his engine and slowing the big truck in the first heat.
In the following heat Climo ran out an emphatic winner, Hall second and 2.33 seconds behind. Grant Rosenburg damaged the nose of his new Toyota Tundra unlimited-class truck.
The third and final heat once more fell to Climo who stretched out a comfortable and commanding 11.6 second margin over Hall, with Grant Rosenburg third and 44 seconds adrift.
Maurice Bain ran out the winner of Achilles Radial class nine, seeing off new rivals Gregg Carrington-Hogg and Murray Kitt.
Devlin Hill had his American car on pace to win class three for cars running engines up to 1650cc ahead of Brendon Midgely’s similar car with Lance Cargill third.
Rex Croskery won class four for sport-modified trucks and four wheel drives from Wellingtonian Glenn Turvey.
Class five for cars with engines up to 1300 cc was won by Ivan Booth ahead of Taine Carrington and Nick Magness – the latter smashing his front left suspension in one heat.
Class seven for cars with 1.0-litre water cooled or 1.2-litre VW engines was won by Fergus Crabb on debut in the class. Crabb had graduated from the youth Kiwitruck classes and was also launching a new Cougar chassis with the first water cooled engine to run in the class at national championship level. He survived a rollover in one heat to fend off Ollie McCall and Jaden Carrington.
Challenger class was won by Campbell Witheford with Justin Williams second and Ricky Jesson third.
The Kiwitruck youth category has two classes – the ‘M’ class which was won by Boiston Horan and the J class, won by Trae Carrington from Marcus Runciman and Arron Crabb.
In the Polaris-backed UTV class, Joel Giddy took line honours ahead of drifter Carl Ruiterman and defending class champion Ben Thomasen.
The next northern round of the 2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship is the Woodhill 100, a punishing forest endurance race that is the oldest in the sport in this country. The Woodhill 100 is held at Queen’s Birthday Weekend on a track accessed off Trig Road, north of Parakai.
The V8 engine may be on the way to ‘endangered species’ status on New Zealand roads, but the muscular bellow of American – and even Japanese – high performance V8 engines is beginning to dominate the spectacular world of offroad racing.
When the first round of the 2015 ENZED New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship starts on Saturday at Kaukapakapa, more than 20 per cent of the 60-strong field will be V8 powered, and the assembled power of the big V8 cars and trucks will exceed 5,000 bhp.
Prototypes could rule the day with experienced racers Gregg Carrington-Hogg and Murray Kitt both moving from the Achilles Radial Class 1 unlimited race car class into the Achilles Radial Class 9. They join defending class champion Maurice Bain (VW Beetle V6 turbo) and leave five unlimited-class entries in the top race car Achilles Radial Class 1: front-runners among that class are Ernie Hogg in the “General” and multiple champion Tony McCall in the ENZED-backed BSL Terra, both running massive race-tuned LS2 Chev V8s.
The ultimate truck class will see a battle between old and new race trucks. There is a new unlimited-class race truck coming all the way from Palmerston North, owner Grant Rosenburg stepping up for class four for modified sport trucks. It has been built in Palmerston North. Another new truck is making its debut with Aucklander Dale Buckley at the wheel, an unlimited-class “ProLite’ design built in America by Kincaid Motorsports. These two go up against Jono Climo’s immaculately-presented Kumho Toyota Hilux Trophy Truck with its twin-turbo V8 and four wheel drive. Also likely to race is Raana Horan in Big Black, his Nissan Titan V8 four wheel drive truck. Horan’s children Brooklyn and Boston are both racing in the Kiwitruck youth category.
More imported race vehicles are flooding into New Zealand as the US-NZ dollar exchange rate continues to favour local racers. Aucklander James Buchanan has imported a Tatum race car and re-powered it with a Mitsubishi Evo turbo engine. Ivan Booth will run a Tatum chassis in class five for cars using engines of up to 1350cc.
Polaris NZ is backing young Tauranga teenager Dyson Delahunty’s step up into the Polaris Class U - UTV or ‘side by side’ class, while another young racer, Tyler Castle, steps up from the VW-powered class seven to race in class five with Suzuki power. The most numerous class is for cars with engines up to 1650cc, where 11 entries had been received by mid-week.
The weekend’s racing starts at 11.00 am on a new course at Haruru Road and takes the form of ‘short course’ heats for fourteen classes of race car and truck including the Kiwitruck youth category. There is an all-in race at the end of the three heats for each class. Short course races are short (five laps) and spectacular, with all race action visible from main spectator locations.
The 2015 ENZED New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship takes place over seven rounds, with competitors racing at either three northern or three southern rounds before the entire championship field meets for the all-in final, which will be held in early November on a farm course in Hawkes Bay.
2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship
Confirmed entries, round one
157 Tony McCall
190 Ernie Hogg
109 Alan Hilliam
187 James Buchanan
151 Shaun Russell (TBC)
333 Brendon Old
324 Brendon Midgley
369 Tony Marwood
341 Andrew Green
363 Lance Cargill
303 Greg Mullins
306 Kohl Midgley
318 Graeme Henderson
327 Eric Teers
396 Vincent Boortman
305 Devlin Hill
450 Rex Croskery
457 Glen Turvey
530 Taine Carrington
544 Ivan Booth
517 Nick Magness
521 Tyler Castle
680 Keri Louie
697 Warren Adams
724 Ollie McCall
730 Jaden Carrington
700 Fergus Crabb
860 Grahame Steedman
861 Nick Hall
852 Dale Buckley
898 Grant Rosenberg
869 Jono Climo
804 Allan Joy
899 Raana Horan (TBC)
917 Murray Kitt
920 Gregg Carrington Hogg
900 Maurice Bain
1012 Jimmy Johnston
C27 Justin Williams
C88 Ken Rowe
C75 Campbell Witheford
C76 Ricky Jessen
C18 Geoff Matich
U39 Daniel Hartridge
U23 Carl Ruiterman
U20 Ben Thomasen
U87 Dyson Delahunty
U16 Joel Giddy
U37 Ross Misson
U88 Mike Small
J03 Trae Carrington
J05 Marcus Runciman
J89 Brooklyn Horan
J95 Arron Crabb
M89 Boston Horan