A titanic battle under the pines is in store this weekend as a record field of offroad race cars and trucks contests the 35th annual Woodhill 100 offroad endurance race.
With entries currently standing at 85, organisers are promising spectacular race action in the qualifying sprints on Saturday and at the main event on Sunday May 31.
The Woodhill 100 is the sport’s oldest and toughest one day endurance race and is the only major motorsport event held in Woodhill Forest, northwest of Auckland.
This year, the race has its highest number of ‘big bangers’ ever, meaning the front 10 rows of the grid will boast more horsepower – and more than twice the torque – of a current Formula One race grid.
Race day will see 11 or more of the sport’s spectacular unlimited-class race trucks line up for a shot at victory including two-times winner Raana Horan.
To take the chequered flag this year, the truck class racers must first claw their way through a field that includes nine unlimited class race cars and 16 class three (1.6-litre) car, with a massive ten car entry in the new Polaris-backed UTV class adding to the race-day mayhem.
Competitors have come from many parts of the country, including the South Island. Leading entries include Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj, who is bringing his massive Jimco Chev race car north to add the Woodhill trophy to his cabinet and will go wheel to wheel with the likes of multiple Woodhill winner Tony McCall of Manukau, driving his single-seater BSL Terra Chev.
Most of the unlimited race cars of Achilles Radial class one are V8 powered, exceptions being Alan Butler (US-built Chenowth Millennium with Mistubishi Evo turbo power) and James Buchanan (US-built Tatum with Mitsubishi Evo power). Both are former Woodhill 100 winners.
With intense competition expected in every class, race pundits are tipping the unlimited-class cars and trucks for the win but also say the 1600cc class three field bears watching. The agile Polaris and Can Am UTVs have shown strong form in the forest in the past two years but never been able to stay at the front as the race wears on.
Organisers say for many racers, the Woodhill 100 has long been the event they most want to win. The punishing nature of the course has always meant even finishing the event is a major accomplishment.
In its 35th year, the Woodhill 100 has gone back to its roots, with a course plotted on the many sand tracks and under the canopy of the pine forest that blankets the northwestern dunes of the region.
Experienced racers say the sand tracks are best tackled flat-out in order to avoid damaging suspension in the many dips and hollows of the course. Racers must also watch for hard tree roots that can pinch a tyre or snag a front wheel with disastrous results.
Qualifying sprints to determine grid position will be held on Saturday 30 May between 9am to 4pm at Black Sand Quarry in Pulpit Rock Rd, Waimauku. The Kiwitruck youth category will also race their own Woodhill enduro on a specially marked course at qualifying.
The 2015 Stihl Shop/ North Harbour Isuzu Woodhill 100 starts at 11 am on Sunday, with forest access from Trig Road, South Head.