Packed entry list for Polaris New Zealand 1000 endurance
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The countdown to New Zealand's biggest off-road race is into its final month with near-record entries confirmed and finishing touches being put to the course layout.
The biennial Polaris New Zealand 1000 endurance race will be raced at a new venue at Ohakuri Rd between Tokoroa and Taupo over September 8-10 with forestry terrain set to challenge a field expected to approach 90 teams.
"The course is new but is going to be pretty much what competitors always expect from the NZ 1000," says event manager Kevin Cooper.
"The track is a combination of some fast sections of open forest road which are linked together by tighter and narrower tracks and fire breaks.
"Compared to the last race (held north of Tokoroa in 2015) where a lot of the track was clay-based, this year's track has more of a pumice base -- which are the traditional conditions for the race when it was the Taupo 1000."
In the past, the race has featured a 50km course layout with competitors attempting to complete 10 laps each day. A shortened course and more laps are planned this year.
"At the moment we have options ranging between 35-45km with the final decision being dependent on the weather," says Cooper.
Work to prepare for the event has taken a year. "It's been pretty much non-stop starting from the initial negotiations with the land owners to the track planning and weekend working bees to clear the narrower tracks," says Cooper.
And it's not just the course layout that needs finalising as the race organisers build a "tent city" in the forest which is the start-finish, race control, the pit area and main spectator viewing.
Qualifying sprints on a 1.5km course -- including a Top-10 shootout -- take place on Friday September 8 and the race is decided by 500km segments on Saturday and Sunday. "Definitely a highlight of the entry list is how many Class 1 Unlimited cars have entered," says Cooper.
"There's already 18 cars in Class 1 including former winners Tony McCall and Clim Lammers."
Recent Woodhill 100 enduro winner John Morgan and reigning national champion Mike Fraser will also be strong contenders in their Class 1 machines.
Challenging the Class 1 open-wheelers will be the fastest of the Class 8 Thunder Trucks and latest-generation UTV machines in Class S and U, including defending NZ1000 champion Ben Thomasen who recently gave the 2017 version of the Polaris R-ZR Turbo its first run in local competition.
A sponsorship clash means Kiwi WRC star Hayden Paddon is no longer able to take up the opportunity to drive a Polaris R-ZR Turbo in the event.
The lightweight motorcycle engined Class 10 single-seaters cars including Scott Buckley are also capable of running at the front of the field.
Australian father-and-son team Roly and Tom Dixon from Bomaderry in New South Wales have entered their V8-powered Nissan Safari ute.