Offroad racing’s power wars come to a head on Sunday at the 36th Woodhill 100 offroad race, a 215 km ‘sprint enduro’ on the rocky roads and punishing sand tracks of the forest, 35 km from central Auckland.
For the first time, the new modified class of all wheel drive UTV race cars will go wheel to wheel with the V8 power of the unlimited class racers.
Nelson racer Nevil Basalaj and Tony McCall of Manukau head up the latter class, a 12-strong entry promising mayhem in the pines. But the ‘S’ class UTVs – new to the sport in 2016 – have been dominating wherever they race and defending national champion Ben Thomasen of Tauranga is a hot prospect to take the win in his Polaris RZR turbo.
The new class allows both power and fuel capacity upgrades that will enable them to compete on a level standing with the powerful unlimited class cars.
On paper, the rivalry is uneven. The modified LS-series V8 in Tony McCall’s BSL Terra Chev makes more than 462 kW (600bhp), driving through the rear wheels. The RZR Turbo’s four stroke, 998 cc turbo twin cylinder engine makes around 111kW (150 bhp), driving through all four wheels. But the S class racers have agility and light weight on their sides and Thomasen is utterly fearless under the trees, where his RZR is likely to make up time on the larger McCall car.
Thomason and fellow Tauranga racer Dyson Delahunty are supported by Polaris NZ; Delahunty driving a U class RZR.
As entries closed off, the race had attracted 84 teams, mostly from the North Island. Northern racers are aiming for Woodhill glory and also for championship points. The race is the second northern round of the 2016 Polaris New Zealand Offroad racing Championship.
Unlimited class racer Nevil Basalaj is coming from Nelson purely for the challenge of tackling the legendary Woodhill in his two-seater Jimco Chev. With a handy points tally on the board in the south, he can’t score northern points but is a strong prospect for the outright Woodhill win.
There are two days of action at Woodhill: on Saturday the race venue at Muriwai sees safety checks from 9 am and qualifying sprints before the drivers in the Kiwitruck youth category have their race at noon; then at 11 am the following day the main race gets under way. Race cars will be gridding up on Sunday from 10.30 am.
Saturday 4th June
9am Scrutineering and Sprints (Qualifying); Coast Road Muriwai.