TAUPO 1000 HAS A NEW NAME AND A WAIKATO COURSE THAT WILL TEST THE BEST, WRITES COLIN SMITH
New Zealand’s toughest four-wheel motorsport event is now three months away with a new name and a new venue.
The New Zealand 1000 is the new title for the biennial 1000km offroad endurance race previously known as the Taupo 1000, which has regularly attracted overseas teams to challenge the best Kiwi racers.
The South Waikato region is the new host for the September 25 to 27 event.
A Ngatira Forest venue replaces the soft pumice roads in the Kaingaroa Forest.
In most other respects the event sticks to a proven format. Scrutineering will be on Thursday, September 24, with track reconnaissance and short course qualifying sprints on September 25 to determine the rolling-start line-up for a field that is expected to exceed 120.
The 50km course to the east of Lichfield — between Putaruru and Tokoroa — includes gravel roads, rough clay tracks, firebreaks and open farmland sections. And there’s a possibility a tunnel will be included.
Aucklander Raana Horan takes his Nissan across the start-finish jump at Taupo.
Competitors face 500km of racing on Saturday, September 26, and can repair their cars overnight for another 500km the following day. Organisers will set up a race village and pit area as headquarters for the event.
The 2013 edition was won by Hikurangi’s Clim Lammers driving a single-seater built by his family team, powered by a V6 twin turbocharged Nissan 350Z engine producing 700hp and capable of 220km/h on the fastest sections. It was the fourth time Lammers had won the 1000km event.
Two years ago 123 teams faced the starter and the tough challenge saw only 11 complete the full 20 laps, which Lammers completed in just over 12 hours of driving. The race is organised by the Auckland Offroad Racing Club under the rule book and class structure of the Offroad Racing Association.
Increasing diversity in offroad racing has seen the emergence of lightweight motorcycle-engine Class 10 cars and the latest UTV production models from Polaris and Can-Am, which have achieved top results against the Class 1 open-class machines and V8-engined Class 8 Super Trucks which have traditionally dominated the sport.
The lightweight 1340cc Suzuki Hayabusa-powered Class 10 machine of Southland’s Hamish Lawlor was the top qualifier and first-day leader in the 2013 event. Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen was the best of the UTV competitors taking fourth overall in a Polaris RZR900.
The latest 1000cc specification machines from Polaris are expected to be even more competitive this year and earlier this month filled six of the top 10 positions in the Woodhill 100.