From the ground up: huge rebuild brings ute from the brink
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The outgoing season of New Zealand’s Portergroup V8 Ute Series was hailed for plenty of close racing. But with that racing came several on-track incidents that helped shape the championship equation.
The biggest of these was a monstrous shunt at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park last month involving Brett Rudd, Matt Spratt, and Glen Collinson.
Rudd took on minor injuries, and his ute was written off. And Collinson’s Panorama Motorsport Ford FG Falcon ute looked to be heading the same way via comprehensive front-end damage.
“I thought the car was definitely done for good,” said Collinson.
“I got two messages from a couple of people on Monday [after the crash], both people that I respect. One of them said try to stay positive which I thought was good. The other one said he couldn’t believe that the DNA car wasn’t going to be out there anymore.
“I had a bit of a moment, actually. That’s when we decided we’d pull it apart. It was no good for anything. Not even parts. Everything was damaged, so we just assessed it and went from there.”
The ute was effectively gutted down to the damaged shell. From there, Collinson’s Hamilton-based PJ’s Panel & Paint team evaluated the carnage — in the knowledge that the series finale at Pukekohe Park was less than three weeks away.
In the space of just one week, the team was able to rip off the front end of the ute, including the firewall — before welding on a new Falcon front frame.
During the process, other parties chipped in with assistance — from Ford New Zealand, paint gurus DBNZ and Linkup Paints, and Collinson’s title rival and former V8 ute champion Paul Manuell who helped supply parts.
Just 12 days after the crash, the ute went into the paint shop, with wiring and then engine installation coming in the rush to race day.
“There are so many cool people in this category, so it was a shame for what’s happened. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. The incident didn’t need to happen, but this effort shows what we’re capable of.”
When Saturday dawned, the Falcon was ready to take on the pack for opening Pukekohe practice — the tailgate, roof, engine, and a repaired differential and gearbox were all that remained from the wreck.
Then qualifying came, and Collinson hustled the near written-off ute to a mighty second place out of 15.
“There’s not a lot of people that could do what we’ve done, especially in the time that we had. We’ve done a year’s worth of work in two and a half weeks. That’s next level, I reckon,” said Collinson.
It looked like a fairy-tale result was on the cards after an estimated 2000 hours of effort and plenty of late nights. But after the subsequent race (Collinson salvaging fifth), the team found a crack in the engine block putting them out for the rest of the weekend.
“That’s motor racing. I actually hate those clichés. I can’t be sad, I said to myself this morning when we were driving up that whatever the result, we’ve already proven that we are a force in the pit lane. I’ve got the best guys.
They’re so dedicated. They’ve been there with me and come from their day jobs to work all night.
“What sort of a person would I be if I just quit? Not because it was hard — it was really hard. We’ve had it hard before but nothing like this. You’ve got to get back up and dust yourself off and go again.”