Sam Thomsen & Mitchell Caldow make it two-from-two by winning Round 2 of the Lucas Oil NZ 4×4 Trials series, recovering from midday to storm their way through the afternoon to finish just ahead of Reuben Mason & Shane Mason by 20 points!
The Wairarapa 4×4 Club hosted the first round in the Wairarapa region in over 5 years and the first by a local club in 15 years, near Martinborough down Lake Ferry Road. Despite a few showers leading up to the event, the day was overcast and stinking hot!
Brinn Fogden & Sean Bydeley in the Zook-Sport Suzuki SJ413 were the sole entrants in A Class. Once more they are getting valuable experience in the beginner’s class developing skills on how to read the terrain and drive as far as the old Suzuki will let them! These core skills on driving to the best of their vehicle’s ability will pay dividends as they work up through the classes, providing an edge on those less experienced.
Nathan Fogden & Mike Gibbons followed up their impressive result at Round 1 with an identical result at Round 2! Finishing 1st in C Class and 3rd Overall and putting them in very comfortable position sitting 2nd outright as we head into the New Year.
Shayne Towers & stand in navigator Paul Chapman were just as consistent, once again finishing 2nd in Class & 7th Overall putting them 5th outright so far this season. The team suffered from fuel injector issues throughout the day as well as a lack of power steering in the morning, making the result more impressive and a sign that the best is yet to come!
In 3rd was Caleb Adlam & Jarrod Moss of Wellington, after travelling all the way to Whangarei for Round 1 they could only manage 6 stages before the motor let go. With the rebuilt motor only going in on the week leading up to the event, the result is a welcome start to their season putting them in the mix as well as favourites for the Malcolm McLeavey Memorial Trophy.
In D Class Reuben Mason & Shane Mason were leading at midday followed by Neal Turner & Wade Alexander. Thomsen & Caldow had a bit of an average morning which they soon corrected, storming their way through the afternoon taking 20 points + speed to finish only 19 points ahead of the Mason’s. Neville Mather & Richard Verner also enjoyed a strong recovery in the afternoon to take 3rd in class, by just 8.5 points(!) ahead of Turner & Alexander.
Further down the field Ryan Bold & Shaun Nicholson enjoyed a strong day to finish 6th in class and 8th Overall, Bold’s best result and first appearance in the Top 10 since debuting his Bold-Built IFS buggy back in 2015. Dan Cowper & Luke Donald were close behind in the latest Cowper Truck running 2.5″ Fox Shocks, dealing with power steering issues throughout the day the duo brought home another strong result finishing 9th Overall.
Rounding out the Top 10 was returnee’s Andrew Canning & John Boylett of Nelson. Canning who had last competed in the National series over 25 years ago took like a duck to water to the modern age, looking increasingly comfortable in the former Mark Stocker & Pedro Osbourne LS7 powered Howat buggy. The last time someone from the Southern Zone finished in the Top 10 was Phil Collins, who finished 5th overall in Ashburton back in 2009.
There were three retirements on the day for D Class. Kevin Galbraith & Gary Vastenhout were the first to retire after rolling over on course 5, damaging the external valve on one of the shocks and some rather clunky noises coming from underneath. Kelsey van Waas & Michael Thomsen also DNF, after a pirouette on their first course of the day the team were plagued with overheating issues and unable to continue after valiantly trying to top up their cooling system. 2NZ and Wairarapa locals Kevin Hermansen & Nick Hamilton were out on their 3rd course of the day, rolling The Gamble on course 9 destroying the rear suspension arms on their Cowper Truck. Not ones to give in, they then managed to repair the suspension arms and make up good ground on the remaining hazards putting them back in the mix, only for the buggy to call it a day with two courses left to run in the morning.
Cody Fogden & Karl Burgener were the winners in E Class in their Zook-Sport Suzuki SJ413, putting on a show throughout the day by putting their Suzuki in places many like it dare to try. One example was course 16, a sidling starting high up on a hill in the afternoon, Burgener held the top side brake to keep the Suzuki driving along as it picked the front up several times, much to the awe of the crowd ready to capture the moment when it all goes wrong.
Locals Sean Cushing & Geoff Butcher were the winners of J Class, however they faced more competition from a rejuvenated K Class. Andrew & Janet Graham from the far north were met with locals John Sheridan & Mike Rolls in the ex-Brent Ward K Class buggy which had won the past 5 seasons straight, returnee Graeme Kingstone & Mike Boston in the ex F-Class CAT Truck Land Cruiser and Willow Eayrs & Garry Ledbury in the Howat V12 buggy. Eayrs previously had navigated for Daniel Whiting in K Class with the Speights Truck.
With several new faces thrown into the mix, each with their own vast experience in trials and varying capabilities of their choice of wagon, only time could tell who would come out on top.
Sheridan & Rolls were an early causality, launching into course 11 and rolling over backwards just as fast, landing hard back to where they started. Unfortunately, the pair broke a bottom suspension arm and were out in the morning.
Cushing & Butcher led the K Class trucks of Eayrs & Ledbury and Andrew & Janet Graham in the morning, building a lead out to 60 points. Eayrs & Ledbury would suffer overheating issues in the afternoon after a few rolls, yielding 2nd in K Class to Kingstone & Boston. Andrew & Janet Graham would then climb their way back in the afternoon finishing 160 points clear of Cushing & Butcher.
It was a sign of a return to form for Andrew & Janet Graham, with Andrew to date still the last person to achieve the nigh impossible feat of finishing inside the Top 10 without a C or D Class vehicle. Doing so in 2005 in F Class finishing 7th along with Dan Cowper who finished 9th in E Class. Throughout the day the pair were careful not to lose points, by sacrificing better gradings in order to guarantee the ones they were after.
Kingstone & Boston had a topsy-turvy day, finding themselves rolling over forwards in the morning which is no joyride in a vehicle weighing over 1500kgs! The duo with experience winning F Class & competing in the Suzuki Extreme 4×4 Challenge struggled with the soft ground combined with the weight of their truck, making it a hard day at the office.
The Biggs Family Cup once again went to the B.O.P. 4WD Club, awarded to the club with the three highest class finishers, the team at Zook-Sport look unchallenged so far this year, with Brinn & Cody Fogden almost guaranteed 1st place finishes and Father Nathan’s strong form the team look tough to beat heading into next year.
The season continues next year starting with Round 3 in the Manawatu which unfortunately isn’t open to public, with normality returning at Round 4 at Te Puke in February.