ORANZ NELSON ENDURO
Class 1 hard charger John Morgan made every post a winning one at Nelson’s Ruff ‘n Tuff 250 Enduro in mid-May. Mark Baker has the story.
It was always going to be a tall order for a UTV to win the fastest round of the 2018 ORANZ National Offroad Racing Championship – the annual Nelson Ruff ‘n Tuff 20 Enduro on Saturday May 12 – but Dyson Delahunty gave it his all.
Driving a stock-standard Polaris RZR 1000 – but entered as an S class modified racer – Delahunty was shaking off a massive crash a few weeks before but gave no sign of hesitation as he slammed-in a pole position qualifying run of 1:21.05, more than two seconds clear of P2 John Morgan in his Desert Dynamics Chev.
Brendan Midgely was third fastest, giving northern visitors a lockout of the top three places.
Bob Uttridge was the first southerner to pop up in the top grid positions, fourth overall.
The course would be the deciding factor, with the first seven kilometres run along wide open logging highways that could be driven almost on a ‘wet’ racing line and where there were ample chances for faster cars to overtake.
Mixing it up, there were then tree-lined single-space tracks, a firebreak drop-off that claimed more than its fair share of racers, skid clearings with wide mudholes and then a rally-style section of ridge-running coming back to the pits for another lap.
Heavy rain on the Friday and fog on the Saturday promised a miserable time, but the day quickly cleared and the roads dried out quickly.
Driving his Desert Dynamics Chev two-seater race car, Morgan powered past pole man Dyson Delahunty on the opening lap and was never headed, driving a perfectly judged race that ended with the chequered flag and a final margin over second-placed Bob Uttridge of more than three minutes.
Off the start, Morgan was quickly past Delahunty in the seven kilometre ‘conrod’ straight that followed the start. He was never again challenged. Fellow North Island drivers Mike Fraser, Alan Butler and Lance Cargill were all looking to chase him down, as were a swarm of S class UTVs, but Morgan was untouchable and was able to adjust his speed to remain so.
Throughout the race, punctures were the order of the day for many, especially in the JG Civil U and S UTV classes. More than seven would return to the pits to replace flat tyres,
mostly rears, after hitting logs or rocks on the fast course.
Also suffering flat tyres were Mike Fraser, Trevor Cooper and Nelson racer Greg Winn, who were all racing in the same unlimited class as Morgan. Fraser and Winn both flayed a rear tyre, Fraser’s flat putting them down the race order while tyres were changed and brake lines checked for damage.
Fraser then set out on a charge back up the race order, but Winn’s weekend ended when he hit a log while trying to overtake Brent McDonald’s Can Am UTV, the impact tearing off part of the car’s front suspension and frame.
Lance Cargill, Auckland, went out when his Jimco’s Chev LS1 engine damaged a piston.
Trevor Cooper’s first flat tyre was changed on the side of the road, his Jimco Champion one of the few cars in the field that carries a spare tyre; however he lost his power steering in the process and when he returned to the track with a two-lap deficit he crashed in slow going at the start-finish area and was out of the race.
Meanwhile, his dad Kevin was driving an older class 3 racer with Nissan power and having an epic race, dueling with locals Cam Stratford and Grant Adamson.
Dyson Delahunty’s spirited drive in JG Civil S class came to an end six laps from home when the Polaris blew its transmission’s drive belts, leaving him stranded. He had fallen behind the charging Bob Uttridge, who had started fourth, climbed to second on lap two, dropped to third in a dramatic battle with local driver Greg Winn, then regained and held second place to the flag.
JG Civil U class went to Rosco Gaudin ahead of expat American Cameron Reeves. Gaudin ran hard all day and rose from 17th at the start to finish sixth overall.
In the 4WD Bits truck category Nelson’s Darrin Thomason was first home, climbing from a start position of 22 all the way to ninth overall at the finish and winning class 4 in his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo.
The drive had taken him to seventh overall until the truck destroyed its rear diff, forcing him to complete the final laps with front drive only; he was given back four minutes for helping a competitor who had gone off the road in a danger area – this gave him an official placing of seventh. He also set the fastest lap of any truck on the day, 16:44.490.
In the 4WD Bits truck category, Grant Rosenberg was first unlimited-class truck home, 12th overall ahead of Martin van der Wal, both drivers from Palmerston North; third was Bryan Chang who came home 23rd overall with a severe misfire in his GT Radial Chev truck.
Ron Crosby brought his class two Pajero home 16th overall and won his class.
Flat tyres, misfires, damaged engines, blown transmissions – John Morgan was racing against the biggest field yet to grid up for the unlimited class at Championship level, but there were no such worries for him. He had only to manage his pace without a close rival through the whole 240 km distance.
The victory lands the northern driver a full 72 points heading into the second round, a two day event at West Melton near Christchurch.
Bob Uttridge’s second placing handed him 70 points, while third overall in an excellent result for his self-built unlimited class race car was Christchurch’s Kevin Nankivell, who took 64 points.
Class three was won by Grant Adamson of Nelson.
Class five was won by Daniel Rusbatch.
Challenger VW was won by Nelson’s John Strickett.
After a couple of late withdrawals, 38 cars and trucks started the race; just 25 finished.
In the youth Kiwitrucks category sponsored by Crabb Racing, Jack Brownlees took victory in a hard fought race-long battle with Kelan Keith, the latter in the truck raced by Jack in 2017.
Martin van der Wal on the gas. Class 3 winner Grant Adamson.
Emphatic event winner John Morgan.
Fastest qualifier Dyson Delahunty.
Class 2 winner Ron Crosby.
Greg Winn on a charge…
Grant ‘Rowdy’ Rosenburg claimed Class 8 honours.
...then limping back to base with a shredded tyre.