ORANZ SHORT COURSE CHAMPS
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.
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!