SPECTACULAR START TO POLARIS OFFROAD RACING CHAMPIONSHIP
A massive new engine and his trademark spectacular driving style has booked multiple champion Tony McCall a place at the sharp end of the 2016 Polaris New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship at Mangawhai this Easter
McCall destroyed his car’s Chev LS2 V8 in a fiery explosion at the pre-season Teng Tools rallycross at Mount Maunganui but bounced back with a bigger 403 cubic inch V8 engine giving him more power and 550 ft lbs of torque when the championship got under way on Easter Saturday.
He had one of the toughest drives of the day, racing against seven other leading unlimited-class racers including Mike Fraser in his immaculate V8 single-seater and Alan Hilliam in his Porsche-powered car. McCall set the class 1 lap record, a 48.532, in the heats. Then to seal the day he won the reverse grid ‘Big Bangers’ feature outright, ahead of Raana Horan and Nick Hall.
“Raana and Nick are real racers, they run hard but they give racing room, so we had a fantastic battle out there today. In all my 30 years of racing I have never competed in such a well-run, exciting event. Now bring on Woodhill!”
With four wins from four starts, McCall is one of ten racers who took top points at the event.
Also winning every race in their class were Cameron Taylor (4WD Bits class two for production utes and four wheel drives), Rex Croskery (4WD Bits class four for modified utes and four wheel drives), Tyler Castle (class five), Warren Adams (4WD Bits class six for winch challenge trucks), Jamie McKinstry (class 7), Maurice Bain (class nine) and Scott Buckley (class ten).
The Leader Products Kiwitruck youth category recorded a clean sweeps for Boston Morgan Horan in M class, while Holly Russell stepped up to a new US-built truck and fought off challenges from race winners Harry Hodgson and Aaron Crabb to win the feature race and amass enough points to win the category for the day. Crabb had won races two and three but rolled his truck in the Kiwitruck feature, while Hodgson won the first race but was not able to repeat his form as the day continued. New arrival Canh Rave rolled his truck not once but twice.
In the UTV classes, a season-long rivalry has begun, with Yamaha fronting up to challenge the dominance of Polaris, current NZ1000 and offroad championship defenders.
In the new S class for modified UTVs Tauranga Polaris driver Ben Thomasen was determined to score his first championship wins in his new RZR 1000 Turbo factory racer and did not disappoint, with a string of three victories in the heats before damaging his suspension in the final. Pukekohe’s Carl Ruiterman was consistently second across the four heats in his new locally developed Yamaha YXZ turbo and won the class, with UTV stalwart Mike Small running a normally aspirated Yamaha and finishing second in S class. Thomasen’s DNF dropped him to third in class for the day, but he had already recorded the class and outright lap record of the day, a 48.502.
U class, the UTV production class, was won by Mike Alexander with Mount Maunganui driver Dyson Delahunty second and Kyle Van Harlingen surviving a rollover to finish third.
More than 70 top race teams contested the opening round.
Off Road Association North Island vice president Richard Crabb said the course – designed by racer Nick Leahy – was one of the best he has seen in the sport for many years and the ‘massive’ spectator turnout vindicated the hard work of the small team that made the event a reality.
“The course itself was spectacular and challenging, and there were bouncy castles, food vendors and even a separate area for kids to ride motorbikes. It really emphasised the family-friendly nature of short course events and it was the perfect way to kick off the championship.”