Tense finish in Christchurch driving champs qualifier
AS IS OFTEN THE CASE OVER THE HISTORY OF the New Zealand Truck Driving Championships, winning isn’t just about having the perfect drive around the course. The theory component that tests competitors’ knowledge of heavy vehicle rules and the pre-trip inspection – requiring drivers to identify faults with the vehicle – are critical components of the overall event.
In fact, in the recent Christchurch qualifying round, it was success in these elements of the contest that proved decisive.
The practical course set up at the A&P Showgrounds was the reverse of last year’s layout – adding “that little bit of extra difficulty,” as the organisers put it.
Fourteen minutes was the maximum time allowed to complete the course, with points deducted for missing waypoints, obstacle collisions and exceeding the time limit.
“There was a fair amount of nerves and tension apparent among the drivers as they enjoyed breakfast off the grill and attended the debrief before they headed off to the theory room to prepare for the first part of the competition – a 60-question one-hour theory test,” the organisers report.
A welcome turnout of RTANZ member companies, family and friends to support the drivers throughout the competition no doubt added to the nerves – increasing the intensity “just that little bit more.”
At the end of it, the points allocated by the judges – who’d done “a fine job of measuring, timing and observing drivers and scoring each one on the precision and accuracy of their drive” – were so close (as they were in 2016, as well) that results had to be checked and rechecked to separate the top few in each category.
“In many cases there was only a point or two between the leaders, which is testament to the skill and competence of the competitors.”
Finally, the Class 5 Truck/Trailer section winner was determined to be Chris Hancox of HIAB and Transport Solutions, while Dean Fraser of NZ Express won the Tractor/Semi honours and Craig Aitchison of Conroy Removals won the Class 3 & 4 title.
Chris Hancox of HIAB and Transport Solutions won the Combination Truck & Trailer class and is presented with his winning certificate by RTANZ organiser Simon Carson
Women drivers were to the fore, with Samantha Fraser repeating her Young Driver of the Year win in Christchurch last year and Philippa Van Grondelle taking out the Class 2 event.
In a couple of ancillary awards, Paul Riley from Hilton Haulage won the honours for the most points in a single category drive – with 533 out of a possible 600 – while Dean Fraser scored the most points for a first-time competitor.
The class winners each earned an expenses-paid trip to the national final on November 10/11 at the RTF annual conference in Hamilton – with the chance to take home some of the $10,000 prize pool and the $1500 prize for the Young Driver of the Year.
The Christchurch organisers paid tribute to the support from RTF and RTANZ members, volunteers and sponsors for making the championships possible – most particularly from title sponsors TR Group/Master Drive Services, “who once again provided the vehicles, prizes and a team of skilled judges for the event.
EROAD sponsors the Young Driver category, while CablePrice sponsored the award for the highest-scoring first-time competitor. Fulton Hogan, Waste Management and Coned Up Traffic Management Solutions provided tools and equipment to set up the courses.
The A&P Showgrounds provided a great venue and ASB put on a much-appreciated barbecue.
The team of judges, organisers and loyal helpers, led by Simon Carson and John Bond, also made the qualifying round possible.
Precise vehicle control was a key skill in the practical assessment
The Rigid class 2 title was taken out by Philippa Van Grondelle