NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Mark Baker.

Christchurch UTV driver Bob Ut­tridge is the toast of the lo­cal off-road rac­ing world af­ter claim­ing an his­toric dou­ble. Mark Baker tells all.

It’s the ul­ti­mate ‘dou­ble crown’ of the NZ off-road rac­ing scene and it is now Bob Ut­tridge’s. In July, Ut­tridge won the GT Ra­di­als New Zealand Of­froad En­durance Cham­pi­onship ti­tle at Golden Downs, south-west of Nel­son. And in Au­gust, in the mud and slush of the Palmer­ston North Of­froad Rac­ing Club’s short course track at Feild­ing, the proud Cantabrian added the UTV Bits New Zealand Of­froad Rac­ing Short Course Cham­pi­onship ti­tle for 2018 to his fast-ex­pand­ing rac­ing CV. He did it in style too. Up against 60 of the fastest and tough­est of­froad rac­ers in the coun­try – and the wet and chilly Manawatu weather – Ut­tridge took the lead in the fi­nal cor­ner of the fea­ture race and burst across the line to claim his his­toric ti­tle dou­ble.

Wet, wet, wet!

The Palmer­ston North club must be won­der­ing what they have to do in or­der to get a fine sunny dry race meet­ing, hav­ing suf­fered a se­ries of ‘weather bombs’ and just plain wet race meet­ings at their pur­pose­built cir­cuit near Man­feild race track. A se­ries of heats set­tled the mul­ti­ple in-class ti­tles, with Sil­verdale’s Joel Giddy best­ing Po­laris fac­tory racer Ben Thomasen and Ut­tridge as well in the S class for mod­i­fied UTVs. Giddy also took fastest time of the day, a 1:13.693 for the 1.2 km course. How­ever, the out­right cham­pion was only to be de­cided by the fi­nal race, a win­ner-takes- all ten-lap fea­ture sprint open to the fastest in each class. As the cars grid­ded up, many were watch­ing the men­ac­ing low sil­hou­ette of Tony McCall’s for­mula-style un­lim­ited-class race car at the rear of the field, wait­ing to see him carve through and hit the front – but it was not to be. The Manukau racer started well and had in­deed carved his way through to mid-field in just a hand­ful of laps but pulled off on the in­field, his en­gine blow­ing a haze of smoke and hiss­ing steam from the ra­di­a­tor header tank. He had reached sev­enth by the time he was forced out by over­heat­ing. Up front, Cody Hata was mak­ing the most of con­di­tions in his lo­cally-built class 9 Baja Chev, which fea­tures an en­gine of sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tion to McCall’s but pro­tects its ra­di­a­tors with a more con­ven­tional de­sign. Hata, mak­ing a re­turn to the sport af­ter a full decade away, hit the front on lap two and stayed there un­til the white flag lap when the big car stopped dead.

Shot through

Taranaki’s Gary Pre­ston could then have taken the win in his class 8 truck but he fell vic­tim to a mas­sive hole on a cor­ner at the south­ern end of the track and Bob Ut­tridge, who had been stalk­ing the lead­ers for four laps, shot through to take the lead and win. Pre­ston was sec­ond, and Leigh Bishop third. Only six rac­ers were clas­si­fied as fin­ish­ers. Af­ter Wil­liam van der Wal blew the trans­mis­sion in dad Martin’s race truck, the best lo­cal fin­isher was Dar­ryl Rush, sixth over­all. It was an his­toric re­sult for af­fa­ble south­erner Ut­tridge. Just weeks ear­lier at Nel­son he had taken out the GT Ra­dial NZ En­durance Cham­pi­onship ti­tle, com­plet­ing a dual crown vic­tory not seen be­fore in the sport. Now, mak­ing the most of a fresh Yamaha race car and a busy year of com­pe­ti­tion, the Christchurch driver is on a roll. “New car, new per­for­mance, this year has been amaz­ing. I’m get­ting plenty of seat time, and the re­sults speak for them­selves,” he said af­ter­wards.

Ja­cob Brown­lees carves through the mud on Satur­day.

Wil­liam van der Wal was fly­ing be­fore the trans­mis­sion of his Dad’s race truck went bang!

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