Caldow & Elms Take Maiden Win at 2024 Season Opener

From the top Co-Driver in 2023 to the top Driver, Mitchell Caldow & Jamie Elms shake up the 2023/2024 Lucas Oil NZ 4×4 Trials Series with their first win at the City Pavements National 4×4 Trial in Waiterimu!

The Counties 4 Wheelers hosted the first round of the season in the Waikato near Huntly, in what was a dry and challenging day. Making the most out of the land and more, several courses featured alterations courtesy of some digger work oft seen at the Suzuki Extreme 4×4 Challenge. Over the day there were six DNF’s and a further five that broke before the finish, however completing at least 75% to score a placing.

Of the retirees most notably was 3NZ Neal Turner & Wade Alexander, who only completed half of the morning stages before their gearbox blew. Previous Top 10 competitor Russell Luders & Neal Moratti would also break with three to go in the morning. Chris Gifford & Shaun Joblin in their brand-new Nitro Custom would finish in the Top 10 for the morning, however it was not to be as their spare front diff would break in the afternoon.

The landing here on course 24 would end the Zook-Sport Team’s day

Those just scraping through for a placing would include the Zook-Sport 4WD Rally Team of Nathan Fogden & Mike Gibbons who were on course for another Top 10 finish. After leading the morning in C Class, the pair were on strong form for the afternoon before an attempt on course 24 saw their transmission bow out. Leaving them to take fours lots of 200 penalty points each over their four remaining courses. Wayne Weatherly & Tayla Weatherly in last season’s 2NZ Nitro Custom would also have to take 200 penalty points, after their drive-by-wire system failed with one course to go, a similar issue that plagued then Neville Mather & Richard Verner at last season’s penultimate round.

Happy as Larry for Caleb Adlam & Jarrod Moss in the Makara Rare Spares Homebuilt

Caleb Adlam & Jarrod Moss took their first C Class win with a strong display by over 100 points! It marks a much better start to the season compared to last, where they only managed six courses before their motor ran a bearing. The duo from Wellington had a strong run throughout the day, just outside of the Top 10 in the morning before coming through to finish 6th overall for the afternoon. This marks the highest placing for a C Class truck other than the Zook-Sport entry, for three years since Shayne Towers & Tony Hadland scored third at Round 2 in 2020. Between Adlam & Fogden it would have been too close to call had the latter not retired, with the top step likely coming down to one speed section! A battle TBD for another day…

Shayne Towers & Tony Hadland suffered a mishap in the afternoon…

John Hawken & Haare O’Brien took the 2nd place spot with 14th Overall after being in the mix in the morning too. Not a bad result considering returning navigator Haare hasn’t competed since 2015! Shayne Towers & Tony Hadland completed the podium finishing 20th overall after suffering steering issues and their buggy going into limp mode!

Caldow & Elms

In D Class Caldow & Elms win was the first for the newly dubbed “Mad Wolf” since Dan Cowper & Andrew Beilby won the 2016 National Final on their way to win that years title! It also marks the first win for the increasing popular Journey Claw XTR Tyres.

With 1NZ navigator Caldow now behind the driver seat, defending 1NZ driver Sam Thomsen enlisted sister Caitlyn to make the step up in Nitro #1. The new combination worked well as they claimed 2nd Overall to start their title defence.

Hot Wheels!

3rd place went to the returning Jarred Biggs & Fleche Crawford in their new Nitro Custom “Hot Wheels“! The latest Nitro features an all alloy LSX 454 derivative (making it 7.6L!) with the buggy featuring extensive use of lightweight materials from alloy driveshafts to titanium steel, making the Nitro under 1000kgs with more power than Biggs’ last vehicle “Boosted“. Together the team claimed 1st in the morning and some of the fastest times in the speed sections over the day.

Behind the Top 3 were several strong performances in and out of the Top 10!

Russell Hall & Glen Hall in the ex Hinjix CowperTruck scored their best ever result with 4th Overall. Likewise with Jamie Larsen & Jacob Higgins who scored their best result with 5th in Nitro Turtle. Shaun Nicholson & Mike Fergusson in only their 2nd National Trial in the former Dave Hintz CowperTruck claimed their maiden Top 10 finish with 9th Overall, the trucks best result in over three years. Behind them was Scott Dickson & Michael Thomsen who took claimed 10th in the ex Dave McKie CowperTruck, also their best result to date in the NZ 4×4 Trials Series. Dave McKie & Reece McKie returned to the sport in a brand new LS7 Nitro Custom. Suffering issues in the morning leaving well out of order, the father & son combo won the afternoon by 20 points!

Dean Wells & Ben Harvey claimed 11th Overall in their rejuvenated Homebuilt, an outstanding performance in contrast to Wells’ best result of 29th over last season!

In the Modified Classes, J Class champs Sean Cushing & Geoff Butcher would swap trucks & seats, as Geoff would drive his former K Class winning vehicle with Sean alongside. The duo had a strong day, finishing ahead of some more capable C & D

Once again from the furthest round north to the furthest south, the season continues near Martinborough in the Wairarapa.

3rd: Jarred Biggs, 1st: Mitch Caldow & Jamie Elms, 2nd: Sam Thomsen & Caitlyn Thomsen