SUZUKI EXTREME 4X4 CHALLENGE
A win for the Biggs brothers, Scott and Jarred, and a ‘world-first’ back flip from Hamish Auret and Paul Barnes, made this year’s Suzuki Extreme 4x4 Challenge an event to remember
With the day of the long-awaited Suzuki Extreme 4x4 Challenge dawning a lit tle overcast on Sunday April 10, the drivers and navis were on the course early prepping their vehicles and minds.
With the crowd gathering round the tape in anticipation of the first hazard – “Cowper Trucks – No Guts No Glory” – Brian and son Daniel from Wellington went first in the Lower Hutt engineering business owner’s self-built, twin-turbo BMW V12 ( that’s right, V12!), hydraulic twin steer machine.
The pair cautiously dropped into the dip before carrying some momentum to get through gate two at the top of the rise then adding more pedal-to-the-metal to drop into the water and climb the next ( manmade mounds) rise.
The flow of water over the bonnet looked impressive and the crowd whooped in delight as Brian charged on, traversing the muddy patch to start the climb across the hill face which had channels dug out so was like steps but with the gates placed at uneven lines. The fif th to tenth ones proved a bit more difficult, and five caught him out. And so began this fantastic, madefor-TV event.
This year’s entry was limited to 15 trucks with the starting order the reverse of the seeding one. After Brian and Daniel came;
14. Graeme Kingstone and Tony Hadland, CowperTruck LS2 Chev V8. 13. Grant Harrison and daughter Renee, Homebuilt Nissan SR20 2-litre. 12. Brent Ward and Mark Smith, Wairarapa Diesel-built NOS-equipped LS2 Chev V8. 11. Mike Gee-Taylor and Dave Hoskin, CowperTruck LS1 Chev V8. 10. Warren Jeffery and Mark Pincock, Homebuilt, supercharged 3.8 V6 Holden 9. Rowan Huckstep and Hendrik Hofstee, CowperTruck LS1 Chev V8. 8. Phil Walton with Chace Rodda, Homebuilt LS3 Chev V8. 7. Neil Moratti and daughter Elle, CowperTruck LS1 Chev V8. 6. Phil Conwell and Paul Chapman, Homebuilt Nissan SR20. 5. Mitch Seymour and Matt Wilson, Howat Engineering-built LS2 Chev V8. 4. Kevin Hermansen and Kirk Grant, CowperTruck Nissan SR20 2-litre.
3. Hamish Auret and Paul Barnes, CowperTruck LS7 Chev V8. 2. Scott and Jarred Biggs, Howat/ Biggs LS2 Chev V8. 1. Andrew Garner and Rupert Curry, Homebuilt LS2 Chev V8. Neil Moratti and daughter Elle claimed the first win of the day on Hazard 1 with a top score of 700, with Warren Jeffery and Mark Pincock second on 600 and the Rowan Huckstep/ Hendrik Hofstee and Mitch Seymour/ Matt Wilson pairs tied for third place on 500.
Highway to Hell
Hazard 2 – “Highway to Hell” – was sponsored by Akarana Timbers and had a slight skip through a wet patch before heading uphill to a sharp turn to the right before a hard turn to the left then another steep climb up a sheep- rutted hill that you had to detour across the face of to pick up Gate 8.
Neil and Elle Moratti still led after it with an overall score of 1300 but Andrew Garner and Rupert Currie had stormed back into contention with 1200, and strategy started playing a part as some good spectacular rides didn’t end with good points.
Get a Grip
Hazard 3 – “Get a Grip” was sponsored by Mickey Thompson Tires with the start across a swamp and up past a hole in the ground close to the tape before dropping back down then weaving between the gates back up the hill.
Most drivers started by heading across to Gate 6 then weaving up. However, both Scott Biggs and Andrew Garner attempted the first gates, with Scott making a spectacular climb to the sky as he avoided the hole and rut while Andrew succumbed to the swamp.
The result lif ted Scott to the top spot with 1800.
Long Run Roller Coaster
Hazard 4 – the “Long Run Roller Coaster” – was sponsored by Roof Improvements and featured deep steps cut into the face of both uphill and downhill tracks.
Of course the gates going up weren’t lined up so that was another thing to contend with.
Hamish Auret was the first to take Gate 6 and Paul Barnes ( his navi) could be seen gripping the bars tight and probably the seat as they went over the lip.
Appetite for Destruction
Hazard 5 – “Appetite for Destruction” – was sponsored by Broadway Accounting Solutions and lived up to its name.
Starting at the top over a mound of dirt a channel had been created like a bobsleigh run straight down.
Brian Howat hit the bank with speed and snapped a steering arm, so it was back to the pits for him. Brent Ward and Mark Smith, meanwhile, took the freefall well but had some trouble through the gates on the knob so even with a good squirt of NOS couldn’t clear the hill. Nor could Neil and Elle or Phil and Chace.
Hazard 6, the Fast Track Customs & Logistics-sponsored “Time Attack” was a speed section.
Warren (Wassa) and Mark (Skid) had a clean run up but landed front first which caused a rollover and a little time spent tending to them as they were taken off the course. Phil Walton with Chace got the lit tle steps wrong and nosedived onto their lid, while Mitch was clever and flew over the step but was very loose on the rest.
Feed it the Phat
The Brunton Engineering- sponsored Hazard 7, “Feed i t the Phat,” had a snake- like course with three sidlings on the curves and a lit tle water in the drain.
Mike Gee-Taylor and Dave Hoskin looked in control but clipped a peg, while Rowan took i t slow but came close to tape and backed off. Phil Walton had a clean line until they touched Gate 8 and lost direction.
Neil and Elle made a big splash and took a mouthful, but got i t under control while Fireman and Chappie had a clear, concise line and scored the perfect 1000.
Hazard 8, the ARB 4X4 Accessories-sponsored “Action- A-Traction,” featured a water hole at the start and the odd game navi was sent in to test the depth before the start.
Grant and Renee missed the water hole then worked the wheel brakes and spun the 35” Mickey Thompsons to no avail up the trench, while Mike and Dave chose to skip across the top at the trench only to hesitate going into the first channel.
Fireman and Chappie jumped across the trench in the middle to get Gate 4 then catapulted between the channels until they flipped on Gate 7.
Stairway to Heaven
Hazard 9 – Harrison’s Hiremaster “Stairway to Heaven” had some gates placed zigzag-style up a sheep tracked hill. The zigzag was so tight most picked a straight line and just nailed it up and played save.
High Pressure Heroes
The Pirtek Wanganui- sponsored Hazard 10 – “High Pressure Heroes” – was a daunting one. Brian Howat launched i t but landed short, while Graeme Kingstone gave i t some good throttle action and cleared the mound only to be caught out going through Gate 6. Brent and Mark did their usual foot-to-the-floor job and sailed over the mound but did enough damage when they hit front first on the other side they were out for the rest of the day.
Mike Gee-Taylor just managed to hit the mound, where Rowan missed it, Phil Walton powered up but his wheels went the wrong way in mid-air and he and Chace landed on Gate 5, while Mitch fair dealt to it going up and landed on the knob but caught Gate 5 before negotiating most of the gates down.
Hazard 11 the Optimo “Dirt Destroyer” was a run up the bog section before a slight circle to aim it back up the hillside once again with many sheep ruts across it and the gates not lined up straight.
Phil Walton and Chace got some awesome lif t at Gate 9 and may have wondered if it was going to go horribly wrong. Mitch had an ugly moment at the same spot, and Hermy gave it a good try.
Scott and Jarred did an awesome run through the bog, not giving up any gates, and with plenty of bounce straight-lined it up the hill with the crowd roaring at they headed for the sky.
The final Hazard (12) was sponsored by Hermansen Contracting and with its daunting wave-like cut out wall at the end of a pit more than justified its “Ball Buster” tag.
Howie was first up and although he didn’t give it any phat still ended up on his lid. As did Mike Gee-Taylor and Mitch, Hermy and Scott. Then along came Hamish and Barnsy taking the high line and a careful approach before lining the wall up, flooring the throttle and clearing a backflip, much to the crowd’s delight.
And so an awesome, crowd-pleasing day came to an end, taking the title for the day Scott & Jarred Biggs – well done boys.
Phil Walton and Chace Rodda get crossed up.
All hands on deck to put Mike Gee-Taylor and Dave Hoskin right side up.
Phil Conwell and Paul Chapman getting some airtime.
Hermy and Kirk take a tumble.
The event attracted a large and very vocal crowd.
Father and son Brian and Daniel Howat on Hazard 3.
Hamish Auret and Phil Barnes going up…
Andrew and Rupert master the knob!
And caught halfway through their history-making backflip.