Story & photo by Mark Baker
North Shore, Auckland, offroader Mike Fraser is the new national champion, taking the title in dominant fashion as North Island racers scooped the top three positions in the Polaris New Zealand offroad racing championship final round at Twizel over Labour Weekend.
The championship title fight came down to the 250 km endurance race on Sunday where Fraser had pole with UTV ace Carl Ruiterman alongside him and the second row filled by Ben Thomasen and Raana Horan.
Fraser held the lead off the start, but blew second gear after eight kilometres.
Horan surged past and held the lead, with Fraser dropping back to avoid the rocks thrown up by Horan’s massive Nissan.
“Once I worked out how to drive the thing in the upper gears, I saw I wasn’t losing time to Raana. Then I smelled hot rubber and I thought ‘hello, something’s happening there’ – shortly after that he pulled into the tyre pits with a shredded tyre and I had the lead again,” he said.
Horan’s tyre problem was acute: he had no spares for the big truck, which runs taller rims than most New Zealand race vehicles.
The UTV challenge had also faded out on the fast, punishing plains of the course under a barrage of frost-cracked rocks, with Thomasen, Ruiterman, Joel Giddy and Dyson Delahunty all pitting for multiple flat tyres.
Fraser, whose championship challenge really hit top speed when he won the Woodhill 100 in June, was a popular champion; Scott Buckley came home second overall and Horan is third, each racer winning their own class title in the process.
2016 Polaris New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship
NZ1 Mike Fraser
NZ2 Scott Buckley
NZ3 Raana Horan
Class 1: Mike Fraser
4WD Bits class 2: Blair Prebble
Class 3: Brendon Midgley
4WD Bits class 4: Darrin Thomason
Class 5: Clint Densem
VW Shoppe class 7: Raymond Tavinor
GT Radial Tyres class 8: Raana Horan
Class 9: Braden Hill
Class 10: Scott Buckley
VW Shoppe Challenger class: Brad Harvey
UTV U class: Mike Alexander
UTV S class: Ben Thomasen
Kiwitruck J class: Brooklyn Horan
To read the full story in the December 2016 issue of NZ4WD go to Ziniocom (November 21) or purchase your own hard copy at the Adrenalin store.