He came, he saw and at West Mel­ton over Labour Week­end, Pukekohe Yamaha racer Carl Ruiter­man con­quered. Mark Baker has the story.

Con­sis­tent speed, a strong team and the right race car took Carl Ruiter­man to the 2018 ORANZ Off-road Rac­ing Na­tional Cham­pi­onship ti­tle over two days of rac­ing in Can­ter­bury this year.

“We made the trip down pre­pared to push to the limit. Dion [Edge­combe] would be do­ing the same and gun­ning for the U class ti­tle as well,” the for­mer D1NZ pro drifter said.

Ruiter­man, who won the north­ern ti­tle in 2016 in a highly mod­i­fied Yamaha UTV, switched to a stock ‘U’ class car for this year’s cham­pi­onship, and says the step helped hone his driv­ing to out­right cham­pi­onship level.

“We spent the last two sea­sons in U class which was the best thing I could have done for my driv­ing and for our de­vel­op­ment of the YXZ1000 at E&H Mo­tors. I’ve been push­ing my­self in the stock race car try­ing to achieve sim­i­lar lap times to my ri­vals in the mod­i­fied S class and con­cen­trat­ing on the sus­pen­sion at work to achieve this.”

The short and long of it!

The na­tional cham­pi­onship fi­nal was held at Can­ter­bury Of­froad Rac­ing Club’s Can Am Speed­way, West Mel­ton, over two hot, sunny and dusty days. Short course rac­ing on Satur­day was fol­lowed by a 250 km en­durance race the next day that used both the track and mas­sive sec­tions of the ad­ja­cent pine for­est.

Go­ing into the week­end, Ruiter­man brought 92 points through from the north­ern re­gional rounds. He then won all three of the JG Civil U class (stan­dard UTV) short course heats on Satur­day at the newly-up­graded race track at West Mel­ton and won the 247 km en­durance race on Sun­day out­right.

In the first short course race he set fastest lap and a new lap record of 1:19.225; in the se­cond he set fastest lap of 1:22.090, chased home by Dion Edge­combe of Mor­rinsville (Po­laris), and in the third Edge­combe was again se­cond be­hind Ruiter­man and set fastest lap: 1:22.751. The first heat set a new class lap record for the track.

Tac­ti­cally per­fect

Ruiter­man fol­lowed his short course clean sweep with a tac­ti­cally per­fect drive in the 250 km Sun­day en­duro.

“The en­duro was al­ways go­ing to be a hard one for us to win. We run the stock 112hp Yamaha Whangarei YXZ1000 com­pet­ing against cars that have over 600hp. We are also not al­lowed an ex­tra fuel tank like the other class cars so would be forced to make at least one pit stop for fuel,” he said

The ini­tial plan was to go out hard and stay with the fast un­lim­ited class cars but by lap two Ruiter­man could see his UTV would use too much fuel, forc­ing an ad­di­tional pit stop, so he dropped his pace slightly.

“We made the five laps [half­way point] with only two litres of fuel to spare, while main­tain­ing a pace quick enough to hold a good po­si­tion. As the race went on and got rougher I started to see the lots more cars crashed out or bro­ken and the race changed shape for us.”

Ruiter­man was keep­ing tabs on the de­vel­op­ing bat­tle for the lead be­tween Greg Winn, Ricky Lane and oth­ers, re­ceiv­ing up­dates from his crew via pit ra­dio.

He was cir­cu­lat­ing in the hot dusty con­di­tions near the front of the field and in the clos­ing laps drew steadily closer to leader Ricky Lane’s big Chev truck.

Prob­lem after prob­lem

The front-run­ners had struck prob­lem after prob­lem: Joel Giddy tore a wheel off his UTV on the start-fin­ish straight; Ben Thomasen had elec­tri­cal is­sues; Greg Winn led for three laps then tore a cor­ner off his car; and Ricky Lane took over on lap six, look­ing likely to take the che­quered flag un­til on the fi­nal lap the Chev went miss­ing when a sus­pen­sion arm bolt broke.

Ruiter­man surged through to take the win and with it the na­tional ti­tle. Though the mar­gin was so close he didn’t know he had it in the bag un­til he crossed the fin­ish line.

“That’s proof pos­i­tive you don’t need a big­banger, hi-tech un­lim­ited class car or truck to do this. I’m rapt!”

Hopes dashed

The en­duro had de­cided the ti­tle but dashed the hopes of a pro­ces­sion of un­lim­ited-class rac­ers. Auck­lan­der John Mor­gan had his car’s al­ter­na­tor fail, los­ing charge while dic­ing with the lead­ers. Nathan Moore and Dion Edge­combe dam­aged their sus­pen­sions in the dusty go­ing. Bren­don Mid­g­ley ran in the lead­ing group un­til his car lost its air fil­ter – a quick way to de­stroy a race en­gine in such dusty con­di­tions.

Po­laris racer Ben Thomasen had re­cov­ered from his elec­tri­cal fault but then had his sus­pen­sion fail – a legacy of a hard hit the pre­vi­ous day.

Class act

In 4WD Bits class two for pro­duc­tion trucks and 4WDs, Ron Crosby (Mit­subishi Pa­jero) took his se­cond ti­tle in a row.

“I went out to drive the course sen­si­bly – had a great time chas­ing the big trucks on the first day – and made sure of the class ti­tle to­day,” he said after the en­duro.

Like­wise, fel­low Christchurch-based driver Bryan Chang won the 4WD Bits class 8 for un­lim­ited trucks in his GT Ra­di­als Chev Sil­ver­ado de­spite a se­ries of mishaps and me­chan­i­cal is­sues. Chang won the first heat on Satur­day then rolled while lead­ing the se­cond but landed on his wheels and con­tin­ued on.

In the en­duro the truck broke an en­gine mount and lost a sub­stan­tial sec­tion of its body pan­els to the con­stant bat­ter­ing from fist-sized river rocks.

“By that time things were pretty dire – but we’d done enough to be sure of the class ti­tle,” he said af­ter­ward.

But the week­end and the day be­longed to an elated Carl Ruiter­man. The cham­pi­onship­win­ning black YXZ has now been sold and the team are well into plan­ning their new mod­i­fied car, build­ing on what has been learned from the stan­dard class cam­paign.

New NZ#1 Carl Ruiter­man, Yamaha YXZ10000 UTV.

Joel Giddy ran fast in the S class heats on Satur­day but lost a wheel the fol­low­ing day.

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