Ben Thomasen follows up his NZ1000 endurance race success with an off-road championship title
Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen raced through an eventful 200km endurance race to clinch the 2015 New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship at the weekend.
Thomasen, who pilots one of the giant-killing Polaris RZ-R1000 UTV class racers, had to make up ground in the points race during the Hawke’s Bay finale before adding the national title to his NZ1000 endurance race success in September.
Drivers chasing the national title carried points forward from three North and South Island regional events earlier in the year into a Matapiro Rd final with short course heat races on Saturday and an 18-lap enduro on a demanding 11.6km course on Sunday.
Thomasen went into the national final trailing Class U leader and fellow Polaris racer Carl Ruiterman (Pukekohe) by four points.
‘‘We won two [races] each on Saturday so there was no change to the points,’’ said Thomasen.
Tauranga's Ben Thomasen was crowned New Zealand Offroad Racing champion last weekend. COLIN SMITH PHOTO.
‘‘It was on-the-limit racing between us and really enjoyable. In the feature race with the bigger field I was able to get away from him in the traffic.’’
Ruiterman, Thomasen and several other class front runners including multi-time champion Tony McCall in his BSL Terra-Chev Class 1 machine were still in title contention going into Sunday’s enduro.
‘‘I took off really hard at the start and was having a really fierce battle with McCall,’’ said Thomasen.
‘‘Then the crew called me in [to the pits] on the radio and I wasn’t sure what the problem. They had seen that a rear arm was bent and it only took them about nine minutes to change it and get me going.
‘‘At that stage I was happy to back in the race but also disappointed because I thought our chances were done.
‘‘I pushed hard to make up some time and then I saw McCall on the side of the track with a broken wheel and I started to wonder about the points. Then I saw Carl was stopped as well and I thought I heard the crew say ‘third’ on the radio but I wasn’t sure.
‘‘Towards the end I drove carefully because it was a really rough track. There were a lot of jumps on the rolling terrain and it actually made me car sick at one stage.’’
Taking just over three hours to complete the enduro victory went to the Desert Dynamics Class 1 buggy of John Morgan who led home UTV class winner Mike Small by 1m 08s.
Thomasen was 3m 57s behind Morgan while Mt Maunganui teenager Dyson Delahunty produced another strong enduro drive in his Polaris to take fourth place, a result that also secured runner-up in the UTV class championship.
Of the 47 starters only four drivers completed the full 18-lap distance. The Class 8 Thunder Trucks of William van der Wal and Nick Hall were a lap down to complete the top six finishers. Thomasen clinched the overall title with 220 points from Challenger class winner Campbell Witheford on 212 while John Morgan’s final round effort earned him third overall and the Class 1 title.
‘‘I was pretty sure I had won the class title again but I still didn’t realise I had won the overall title until the points were announced,’’ said Thomasen.
It’s the first time a UTV class competitor has won the outright national title. Thomasen now enjoys the status of being the first driver to win a national round in a UTV, the first to win the biennial 1000km race in one and the first to win the outright national title.
Thomasen has already set some racing goals for 2016 — defending the national title and going one place better than his runner-up finish in the annual Woodhill 100 race.
2015 ORANZ champions: Overall: Ben Thomasen Class 1: John Morgan Class 2: Ron Crosby Class 3: Devlin Hill Class 4: Glen Turvey Class 5: Nick Magness Class 6: Warren Adams Class 7: Ollie McCall Class 8: Nick Hall Class 9: Gregg Carrington-Hogg Class 10: Rosco Gaudin Challenger: Campbell Witheford Class UTV: Ben Thomasen Class M: Boston Morgan-Horan Class J: Harry Hodgson