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.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Mark Baker

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.

Win­ning run

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.

Flat out!

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.

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