McCall scores historic Woodhill win

thumbThe toughest one-day endurance race in New Zealand is owned – again – by Manukau’s Tony McCall.

The multiple New Zealand champion had a tough fight on his hands in Woodhill Forest on Sunday as he set out to win his sixth Woodhill 100 offroad race.

Racing from seventh on the grid and in wet conditions that offered little grip, McCall faced a high speed duel with a swarm of Polaris ‘side by side’ racers – light, agile cars with four wheel drive, well suited to the bumpy sand tracks and occasional mudholes of the 25 km course.

A well-judged drive took him to the front of the race on the first lap and handed him a sixth outright victory in the 35 year old race, netting valuable points toward the 2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship title.

The unlimited class ‘rocket ships’ found their qualifying times placed them in the top ten, which was dominated by the Polaris ‘side by side or UTV race cars.

The front row of the grid was an all-Polaris affair, with Polaris team driver Ben Thomasen on pole and drift racer Carl Ruiterman alongside.

At the race start these two were wheel to wheel into the first corner, Thomasen surging ahead to sprint off into the forest with a two-car length advantage over Ruiterman; Championship first round class winner Joel Giddy improving from fourth to third in a matter of metres and Winton’s Roger McKay up to fourth, pushing Whakatane’s Mal Langley down from third to fifth.

The Polaris drivers were revelling in the slushy going.

Mal Langley used the open sections of the lap to fight back and reclaim third but behind him McCall was on a charge in the BSL Terra Chev.

Ben Thomasen had been swamped by the field and was fifth, Carl Ruiterman carrying the UTV challenge in second place. Behind them the field began to space out along the punishing sand tracks and logging roads of the forest.

A track blockage at the second checkpoint threatened to destroy McCall’s lead but he was able to stay in front of the UTVs, while Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj in the big Jimco Chev forced his way through over three laps from a start position of 15 to be second overall for two laps, locked in battle with the UTVs.

By the third lap McCall had lapped almost half the field, using the BSL car’s massive torque to slip past the slower cars in small clearings and overtaking three and four cars at a time on the faster sections.

The UTV threat began to re-asset itself at half distance, Mal Langley shredding a tyre far from the pits and Nevil Basalaj slipping slowly back.

His challenge would effectively end with a lengthy fuel stop that gave McCall a massive advantage.

The UTVs were now scrapping for the minor podium places and Jono Climo had come from last on the grid to the top ten, then into the top five in his massive Toyota V8 truck.

Qualifying dramas had put him at the rear of the start grid alongside Raana Horan, whose Woodhill started with damaged diffs at the qualifying and went from bad to worse while he was pushing up through the field.

Horan started 64th, climbed to 38th after the first lap, then to 21st but then his challenge came apart: first a flat tyre, then power steering problems slowed his Nissan Titan V8.

Climo had started 67th, climbing to 44th in one lap. He was forced to pit at middle distance to let navigator Josh Piper out – Piper having developed a migraine in the crash-and-bash of the racing.

Ben Thomasen held on for a hard-fought second place, winning the Polaris -backed U class ahead of Carl Ruiterman who damaged his rear suspension on the final lap.

Paeroa’s Mike Small had damaged a drive belt in his Polaris but was on the track hunting down a top ten finish.

The chequered flag, though, belonged to Tony McCall, who swept through to take his sixth Woodhill win, completing the 250 km event in a total time of three hours and 45 minutes.

He set fastest lap of 18:30.706 on that charging first lap, with an average road speed of 81.03 km/h and completed the distance without needing to pit for fuel.

Tony McCall and Ian Foster are now equal on six wins apiece in New Zealand’s toughest one day endurance race.

The race was also notable for father-son class win combinations: Tony McCall won the Achilles Radial-backed class one and his son Ollie won class seven; Gregg Carrington-Hogg won Achilles Radial class nine with son Taine winning class five; another son, Trae, won the youth category 30 minute race the previous day.

2015 ENZED Offroad Racing Championship
Round three: the Stihl Shop/North Harbour Isuzu Woodhill 100
Overall, top ten finishers (with number of laps completed)
1. 157 Tony McCall Chev V8 BSL Terra (10)
2. NZ2 Ben Thomasen 1000 Polaris RZR (10)
3. U23 Carl Ruiterman 1000 Polaris RZR (10)
4. U08 Phil Smart 1000 Polaris RZR (10)
5. 869 Jono Climo Toyota Twin Turbo V8 JRC Truck (10)
6. U16 Joel Giddy 1000 Polaris RZR Calavera (9)
7. U87 Dyson Delahunty 1000 Polaris RZR (9)
8. 173 Nevil Basalaj Chev V6 Jimco (9)
9. 397 Rick Sciarone Suzuki 1640 Cougar (9)
10. U88 Mike Small 1000 Polaris RZR (9)