Neville Mather & Richard Verner win again at Te Puke in front of Sam Thomsen & Mitchell Caldow, putting them in serious contention for top honours this season.
With Cyclone Gabrielle just holding off from the Bay of Plenty in the morning, the B.O.P. 4WD Club hosted the fourth round of the Lucas Oil NZ 4×4 Trials Series with money raised for the Waipuna Hospice.
With 48 vehicles competing, the day saw major track evolution as the weather took a turn at lunchtime. Some sections turned from lumpy hill-side to railroad tracks. With other sections turning from smooth to rough, just to balance it out! This in effect made the random starting order otherwise known as the “luck of the draw” play its part in the outcome of the day.
Brinn Fogden & Sean Bydeley had a rough day at home, with wet conditions hampering the efforts of the plucky little A Class Suzuki, the duo could only reach as far as the 60 grading throughout the day. Not helped with some mechanical dramas which almost caused them to roll in the timed section, followed by breaking a rear diff in the morning which couldn’t be replaced till midday.
Nathan Fogden & Mike Gibbons continued their run of Top 10 finishes this season, taking the win in C Class and finishing 6th overall currently putting them 3rd outright heading into the final two rounds. The Zook-Sport entry recovered from electrical dramas in the morning to improve their position in the afternoon.
Former C Class champ John Hawken & Blair Harrison finished 2nd in C Class and 21st overall, ahead of Shayne Towers & Tony Hadland.
Towers & Hadland were leading the class at midday with a strong score of 190 points putting them 8th overall in the morning. Their day was not meant to be, as a broken rear diff early in the afternoon saw them fall down the order to 29th overall. Nevertheless, they salvaged 3rd in class by continuing on to finish the day.
In what was another close battle between Mather & Verner vs Thomsen & Caldow, the two were only separated by 41 points at the end of the day. With Mather & Verner on two wins and a fourth, compared to Thomsen & Caldow ‘s two wins and a second, the pressure is on as one team continue to close the gap whilst the other tries to hold the advantage. With Thomsen involved at winning at the location of the next round in Manawatu and Mather & Verner taking their first win previously at the scene of this season’s final at Thames, time will only tell who will come out on top.
Behind them was the return to form of Dan Cowper & Luke Donald, after a strong morning the pair held on during the afternoon to finish 3rd outirght, Cowper’s first podium since 2018 where he scored a shock 2nd in the Zook-Sport CowperTruck.
Aaron Guest & Garry Preston were the leaders of the morning in the latest Nitro Custom before falling to 4th overall. Their consistency throughout the season however sees them sitting at 4th outright leading into the last two rounds. Ash Tonkin & Aaron Beattie were 5th, also enjoying a good string of results seeing them in the Top 10 outright.
Chris Tomalin & Fleche Crawford gave “The Ninja” its first Top 10 finish since debuting last season. Also making a return to the Top 10 was multiple K Class champs Brent & Michael Ward, whom after a strong showing in the morning held off to take 10th, their first Top 10 since Round 4 in 2016.
Cody Fogden & Karl Burgener in E Class also broke a rear diff on the day, taking a couple tumbles along the way to finish 1st in class. They kept Andrew & Janet Graham honest in the afternoon, just 33 points/two gradings behind.
Andrew & Janet Graham were the sole entry in K Class, finishing just behind the C & D class vehicles and ahead of Brinn & Cody Fogden in the Suzuki SJ413’s.
The penultimate round of the season takes place just north of Palmerston North at Colyton on March 5th. The Manawatu 4WD Club host the Combi Clamp 4×4 EXTREME Trial with proceeds going to the Grassroots Trust Rescue Helicopter
At the next round competitors will be eyeing up to solidify a spot in the Top 10 and entry to the Suzuki Extreme 4×4 Challenge, before the National 4×4 Final held in Thames on 15th April.