A thousand kilometres of racing, without ever touching tarmac. Flat out on logging highways and down tiny skid tracks where the trees have almost grown together overhead. Places where you hit 200 km/h and almost immediately brake all the way down to 20 km/h to slot into a goat track under the trees.
It’s an event that tasks drivers with completing a whole Bathurst 1000 distance without touching tarmac. It’s an absolute blast and it is so addictive that I’ve been there more times than I can count.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the NZ 1000, formerly the Taupo 1000 and backed by UTV brand Polaris for the second year running. This epic event has been running since 1993. It is unique in the sport in this country, the toughest, fastest endurance race of all.
So the Dirt Nation is about to celebrate its flagship international event, the Polaris NZ 1000, in a new forest, on an all-new 50km circuit and run over the first weekend in September. Will there be some weather? Certainly. When the race was run over on the other side of Taupo, there was snow on the track and our milk froze overnight. Black instant coffee’s not a great start to the day (Speak for yourself Chang! Ed)
A fresh crew is creating the latest version of this mighty race, and already at the start of July they had gone all the way to 65 Intent to Enter pre-registrations.
That already includes Roly Dixon and son Ben, racing their Nissan Safari V8 ute.
Ten weeks from the event and already the grid was getting full.
At that time there were 13 class one race cars. It will be interesting to see how Donald Preston’s mighty new V8 Porter goes in an event that should suit it very well. Tony McCall’s back for another shot at the title. Mike Fraser’s there, hoping to have left his Woodhill aerobatics behind him.
The Sciarone brothers are both in, racing in class three – and the threes are very much in the hunt here because they don’t beat up their mechanicals the way the class ones do.
The big question
The big question is whether Ben Thomasen can defend his 2015 win, where he topped the timesheets both days. The S class scene has changed radically since then with new offerings from a range of brands. Can they get the best of rally-proven hard charger Ben T?
The pit lane becomes a race village at this event, a who’s who of the sport and some interesting share-drives happening too.
I’ve helped connect some racers with available vehicles over the past few months, many of which will make their debut at the NZ 1000.
A fair number of those are trucks and they have headed for the Palmerston North area.
It might be an endurance race but it attracts whole families and it has a massive positive effect on the towns of the central North Island.
Figure this: the event is equidistant between Taupo, Rotorua and Tokoroa. Every race team numbers – say – four. Figure 80 entries, that’s 320 people. The marshals, the race organisers, another 30 or more. Everyone stays at least three nights. Everyone eats and drinks and the race vehicles consume fuel, oil, parts. The economic impact of the event is enormous, and great for the tourist towns which are in a ‘shoulder’ period.
There’s even a separate stand-alone enduro title up for grabs in the youth Kiwitruck classes. Already there are a half dozen entries for that.
The organisers are receiving spectator enquiries from Australia, the USA and New Caledonia.
This is the biggest show in the sport, and those who don’t try it at least once don’t know what they are missing.
Currently the unlimited class one race cars are most numerous – where are you, truck racers?
To read every story in the August 2017 issue of NZ4WD go to Zinio.com (July 21) or purchase your own hard copy at the Adrenalin store.