As spectacular crashes, mechanical failures and wildlife incidents claimed top contenders, Palmerston North’s Grant ‘Rowdy’ Rosenberg steered his van der Wal-built unlimited class truck through the Woodhill 100, New Zealand’s longest and toughest one day endurance race this year, to win 4WD Bits class 8, finishing 14th overall.
In doing so he overtook Mal Langley, who lost drive to the rear of his Donovan Chev-engined ‘ProLite Plus’ truck; drove past Nick Hall who was out on the first lap after losing a rear brake, and fended off the challenge of ProLite racer Dale Buckley, who had taken class honours at the muddy, rain-affected first round held at Meremere in March and ran hard at Woodhill till mechanical problems struck late in the race.
Many were picking Jono Climo to win the class. His massive ‘trophy truck’ style Toyota Hilux – boasting twin turbo Toyota V8 power & four-wheel-drive – had qualified best of the truck classes and started sixth, but disaster struck before the end of the first lap when the main battery feed fuse spiked and killed power midway around a corner, leaving the truck stranded.
“We watched as the rest of the field bounced off and around the sides of us and into the distance. Using my harness buckle I managed to arc across the fuse posts to start the truck to move it off the track. We then bypassed the fuse to get us going,” he said.
However, as he started his fight back, he was hit in the head by a large rock that cracked his helmet visor in half.
“We struggled around the track with my left hand over my eye for protection before our third gremlin kicked in......the throttle jammed wide open with 668hp trying to escape!”
Climo limped the big truck back to the pits and sorted the throttle problem - a rock jammed in the linkage – and finished a lap down on Rosenberg.
In the other 4WD Bits truck classes, Bill Wood took his Jeep Cherokee to the class 2 win; Glenn Turvey ran out a clear winner in class four driving his Toyota Hilux pre-runner and Darin Neeley won class six after Warren Adams dropped out.
Neeley’s race was not plain sailing either: he stopped to push two race cars out of sand traps and his front nudge plate became entangled in the engine cage of the second car. That forced the two crews to use a bottle jack to separate the cars and Neeley’s steering drag link was bent in the process, giving the big Nissan toe-in for the rest of the race and affecting its high speed stability and turn-in to corners.
First 4WD finisher
The first four-wheel-drive to finish was a UTV: in JG Civil S class, Ben Thomasen of Papamoa had a race-long battle with Carl Ruiterman and Joel Giddy but surged through in the closing stages to cross the line fourth outright, banking valuable points for the championship in the process.
Kiwitrucks turn it on
There was a 15-strong grid for the 30 minutes enduro in the Crabb Racing Kiwitruck youth category. Harry Hodgson won M class for the bigger engined ‘gearbox’ trucks; Andre England won J class and Maiya Tufnell won K class.
Katie Tufnell rolled her truck, but another young female racer, Holly Russell, was second overall.
The Morgan Express rolls through Woodhill
Meanwhile in the outright standings, John Morgan took the title – his first – driving the full 200 km with a misbehaving engine. His epic run began from P5 on the grid as part of a cluster of unlimited-class cars that included multiple champion Tony McCall and hot new talent Jardyne Lammers. Morgan improved lap by lap as the other unlimited-class racers fell by the wayside, and fought off charges from Steven Stokes and Clim Lammers as he went.
Jardyne Lammers had taken pole and the early lead, but was one of the first casualties, dropping back as the first lap proceeded then plummeting off the leader board and out of the event.
HasTrak class three front-runner Rene Sciarone was involved in the event’s first major incident, however, hitting a deer at checkpoint four on Coast Road just minutes into the first lap.
The impact with the juvenile deer slewed his car across the road and he rolled into the trees. He was unhurt but unable to continue.
Setting out on a determined drive up the race order, Morgan set fastest time of the day on lap two - a 12.51 sec lap - while chasing down early leader Tony McCall.
When McCall went out the ‘Morgan Express’ took and held the lead. Steven Stokes had started P4 and quickly powered through to second at the end of lap two but dropped out of contention on lap seven and was sixth at the finish.
Former multiple winner Clim Lammers also fell victim to electrical issues, completing only half the race distance. Christchurch’s Jacob Brownlees was hit by class 9 racer Maurice Bain and was out with a severed crank angle sensor wire. He had also broken a suspension strut bolt.
Hydrobarriers take a beating
The 90 degree corner after the high speed start-finish straight claimed its share of racers. Trevor Cooper crashed through the barriers in his massive American-built Jimco but was able to circle back and regain the track.
Campbell Witheford struck them a glancing blow in his smaller Kiwi-built Cougar VW, while Gregg Carrington-Hogg gathered in a good few and parked on them in his class 9 Chev powered Baja car.
Finally, Albany's Mike Fraser barrel-rolled over the top of them. Last year's winner and defending champion, Fraser was on a charge from a P20 qualifying spot up the field but crashed out spectacularly at the beginning of lap 3 while fourth overall.
He said the Motomuck/Wheelmuck Racer Engineering Toyota V8 single-seater had been jumping out of second gear and he had missed his braking marker at the end of the 130 km/h straight. The car barrel-rolled off, tapping the rear of Clim Lammers’ car as it went, then vaulted the barriers and landed on its wheels in long grass alongside the intersection “so I waved the marshals away and got back on the track but it was obvious the car wasn’t right and I didn’t want to damage it for nothing”.
He withdrew and parked the Motomuck car at the end of that lap.
A sprint enduro
When the big unlimited cars and trucks are able to stay viable for the full distance, Woodhill’s elapsed time can be surprisingly short. John Morgan's perseverance with his misbehaving car was rewarded with a welcome chequered flag. He finished 3:40 seconds ahead of second-placed Brendon Midgely and his elapsed time for the full 200 km distance was an exceptional 2:33.07. Only nine cars finished on the lead lap and completed the full 200 km; 50 of the original 78 were able to complete enough distance to be classified winners.
This year’s Woodhill 100 was the third round of the 2017 Polaris New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship in association with HasTrak.
2017 North Harbour Vehicles/Grabtruck.co.nz Woodhill 100
1. John Morgan (winner class 1)
2. Brendon Midgely (winner HasTrak class 3)
3. Rick Sciarone
4. Ben Thomasen (winner JG Civil S class)
5. Carl Ruiterman (winner U class)
6. Steven Stokes
7. Trevor Cooper
8. Tim Ackers (winner HasTrak Challenger class)
9. Todd Graham (winner class 5)
10. Joel Giddy
To read every story in the August 2017 issue of NZ4WD go to Ziniocom (July 21) or purchase your own hard copy at the Adrenalin store.