NZ OF­FROAD CHAMPS PRE­VIEW

The 2018 ORANZ of­froad na­tional cham­pi­onship takes on a new look within its sev­en­round for­mat this year. Mark Baker has the story

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Mark Baker

As in pre­vi­ous years, there are three north­ern and three south­ern re­gional rounds be­fore the na­tional fi­nal at Labour Week­end. In the north there is a new trend ev­i­dent – two of the three rounds are held on pur­pose built ‘sta­dium’ tracks. The new­est of these, Taranaki’s, will al­ready have had its first na­tional cham­pi­onship event by the time this goes to print. The sec­ond has been raced on be­fore, but never at na­tional level with the amount of de­vel­op­ment that has been com­pleted. Manukau’s sta­dium track at Prices Road (Colin Dale Park) is in­tended to be a per­ma­nent fix­ture of Auck­land’s mo­tor­sport scene, with a skid­pad on site and sep­a­rate race venues for a range of sports. The third round in early June is the Wood­hill 100 for­est en­durance race. Of­froad rac­ing is the last mo­tor­sport cat­e­gory to be given such wide per­mis­sions to race as the own­ers of the for­est are in­creas­ingly pro­tec­tive of their pine hold­ings. There is then a gap all the way to Oc­to­ber and the na­tional fi­nal. In the south the rounds are hosted by Nel­son Of­froad Rac­ing Club, Can­ter­bury Of­froad Rac­ing Club and Otago Of­froad Rac­ing Club. The Can­ter­bury round is their pop­u­lar Main­land Chal­lenge event, held over two days at West Mel­ton south of the city. The new venue for south­ern rac­ers will be Otago’s, a farm-based course with a mas­sive nat­u­ral jump. The fi­nal at Labour Week­end is at the Can­ter­bury club’s West Mel­ton venue.

Em­brac­ing change

New cars and trucks, new faces in the UTV classes and the pos­si­bil­ity of two new brands ar­riv­ing to chal­lenge Po­laris, Yamaha and CanAm are rated as signs of the en­dur­ing health of the sport. The UTV classes are grow­ing year on year, and there are ru­mours of Honda and another brand mak­ing a de­but in 2019. Across the stan­dard and mod­i­fied classes, there are grids of up to 20 at na­tional level, and Po­laris in par­tic­u­lar re­mains a strong force in the sport, back­ing Ben Thomasen to win the ti­tle again. Or­gan­is­ers have also asked rac­ers to come up with sug­ges­tions to re­duce the number of classes in the sport. With 15 classes across three cat­e­gories, but de­clin­ing num­bers in some of the tra­di­tional cat­e­gories, there is a strong mood for change – though at such an early stage there is lit­tle agree­ment about what form the change should take. There were strong UTV, class one, class three and class five grids at the open­ing round but fewer in the un­lim­ited class one and class seven races and no class two en­tries had been re­ceived by cut-off. By con­trast, UTVs made up al­most a third of the 60-strong en­try. Of­froad rac­ing is also deal­ing with noise re­stric­tions for the first time, with its new 90 deci­bel level ap­plied to all race ve­hi­cles in the sport. The limit is sim­i­lar to that set in other branches of mo­tor­sport. To find out more about this fan­tas­tic sport check out www.oranz.co.nz

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