Is off road racing going through a time of change? You’d have to say yes, for a variety of reasons. The rise of the UTV classes has brought ‘off-the- shelf’ racing to the sport and in about 50 per cent of the average entry list the names are new to the sport. That’s a good thing. In the North Island the Kiwitruck youth category is going great guns, and kids are graduating into the regular classes. However, there is not much happening in some of those classes, which suggests the time is coming when we need to look seriously at structure and define exactly what makes a class viable and what makes it eligible to run at championship level. Class five, class seven, class nine are all in this situation, and class ten may be as well. The truck classes, too, could do with a closer look.
Rise of short course
One of the biggest changes emerging though is where and how we race. With Canterbury, ATR, Palmerston North and soon Manukau having their own dedicated short course tracks, and all those tracks being based on farmland of some description, racers who love the forests are finding it hard to get their fix of adrenalin. Auckland is having to jump through more and more hoops to get a course for the classic Woodhill 100; the NZ 1000 has had to move venues. We haven’t been in Gwavas for a while now, Hawke’s Bay having access to its fantastic farm race course as used in their recent national championship rounds.
Waikato has TECT Park – but that’s not really forest racing so much as racing that happens to involve blocks of land with trees on them. Nelson still has access to their great bush- clad hills for enduro racing. But overall, access to forests for any kind of motorsport is slowly becoming just too hard for organisers. That seems likely to drive the sport out onto the farms – like Waikato’s Raglan course – or at best onto mixed format tracks like the old Wild 300 in the Bay of Plenty. I reckon if you like forest racing you should make a point of having a crack at the Woodhill or the 1000 sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, our new President is making noises about getting out there too. Palmerston North has been a hive of activity in recent years as father, son and daughter race team Martin, William and Samantha van der Wal carve out a slice of truck class action.
Between them they have produced five race trucks, while the club itself has one of the higher ratios of race vehicles per head in the country: Grant ‘ Rowdy’ Rosenberg, Peter Hogg and Ivan Booth are all active in truck and race car classes. Martin’s latest truck is about to surge out of the man-cave under its own steam. It’s a class eight – everybody loves the unlimited ‘mad professor’ truck class – and is based on a modified ProLite chassis. Longer wheelbase, wider track and more suspension travel all help cope with the power of a fuel injected LS 6.0- litre Gen 4 engine, although Martin’s not telling us any numbers just yet. The torque will be impressive though, and retaining fuel injection means it will give super smooth linear grunt all the way to the higher rev range – not that you really need to wring its neck. The great thing about engines like these is you don’t have to punish them to be ripping up the road.
A huge help
Martin says Warren Adams at 4WD Bits has been a huge help sourcing the right components for the new truck, which has yet to acquire a name. It runs FOA bypass shock absorbers, Trail Gear power steering and beadlock rims, and that big Chev engine is managed by a Link ECU, set up on the dyno by Keith Stewart. The engine is fed from a 160 litre JRC fuel cell. The grunt runs through every racer’s favourite transmission, a Turbo 400 auto, then to a Nissan Patrol diff. The new truck will be clad in Toyota Tundra panels made in- house. Martin reckons it has taken around 700 hours to finish. He says the build is high spec where it counts – but he’s built the truck to a budget ‘ to keep the fun factor alive’. Those Palmie boys know how to do that!
ORANZ President Martin van der Wal’s new Class 8 truck.