Ben Thomasen secures back-to-back Polaris NZ 1000 enduro wins
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Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen battled extreme weather and brutally rough track conditions to secure back-to-back wins in New Zealand’s toughest offroad motorsport event at the weekend.
Thomasen completed a shortened 2017 edition of the biennial Polaris NZ 1000 enduro at Ohakuri with a clear winning margin of 43 minutes over his nearest rival.
The win follows Thomasen’s 2015 success when he became the first driver of a UTV class ‘‘side-by-side’’ vehicle to win the longest offroad race in Australasia.
In rainy conditions on Saturday Thomasen raced to his Polaris RZR 1000 XP Turbo to a lead of more than 22 minutes over the big Nissan V6 Turbo Class 1 contender of three-time race winner Clim Lammers (Hikurangi). And he was well clear of the rivals when the race was stopped at two-thirds of Sunday’s scheduled distance.
The stoppage was called because snow had started falling on the higher parts of the forestry course and with drivers in open cockpit cars already soaked from earlier rain it was decided to halt the race on safety grounds.
Three-time former winner Clim Lammers (Hikurangi) was a front runner until he was delayed by a lengthy pit stop on Sunday. Photo / Greg Henderson
Thomasen said the most difficult part of the event was maintaining vision and concentration. All crews were making regular stops to collect clean goggles from their pit crews.
‘‘The toughest part of the event for me was the rain and managing vision. When you’re struggling to see a lot you end up in some of the big holes that you are trying to avoid.
‘‘You have to keep it together for a long time and my mind was just beginning to wander. When you are trying to slow down to conserve the car you keep running wide everywhere.
‘‘I drove pretty easy today [Sunday]. I wasn’t very entertaining but I was just managing the gap and preparing for the worst just in case something went wrong.’’
Ben Thomasen has completed back-to-back wins in the Polaris NZ 1000 endurance race. Photo / Supplied
The race delivered clear domination by the latest Class S UTV side-by-side machines which took the top five places overall as the much more powerful Class 1 open wheelers and Class 8 Thunder Trucks fell by the wayside.
Morrinsville’s Nathan Moore made it a one-two for Polaris while Pukekohe’s Carl Ruiterman and Joel Giddy sharing a turbocharged Yamaha proved to be Thomasen’s closest rival on pace.
They led the first six laps on Saturday before losing time replacing a suspension tie rod and also needed a late pit stop on Sunday after completing the penultimate lap without a left rear tyre and finished third.
Former NZ V8 Touring Car racer Hadyn McKenzie (Auckland) climbed up the order throughout the race to complete the top four with a Can-Am Maverick while Yamaha took the Class U honours for less modified UTVs with Auckland’s Roger McKay finishing fifth overall.
Ben Thomasen built a lead of more than 22 minutes during the first day of the Polaris NZ 1000. Photo / Greg Henderson
2017 Polaris NZ 1000 — results:
1 Ben Thomasen (Tauranga) Class S Polaris, 9h 19m 58.9s
2 Nathan Moore (Morrinsville) Class S Polaris, 9h 52m 58.2s
3 Carl Ruiterman/Joel Giddy (Pukekohe) Class S Yamaha, 10h 01m 39.0s
4 Hadyn MacKenzie (Auckland) Class S Can-Am, 10h 19m 58.6s
5 Roger McKay (Auckland) Class U Yamaha, 10 02m 44.5s