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Offroad Racing Championship Heads North

Offroad Racing Championship Heads North
Two days of fierce competition at Mangawhai for Easter
Four racers hold joint championship lead
New cars aim to make an impression
The seaside village of Mangawhai north of Auckland is host to the offroad racing national championship for this first time this Easter, as upward of 60 race teams arrive in the town to do battle.

Buoyed by a massive turnout to the first round of the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship, organisers of the Mangawhai round are seeing strong early interest in their event that indicates their round will attract a record entry across all classes.

The second round features both crowd-pleasing stadium-style short course racing and a full endurance race, offering North Island drivers the toughest weekend of racing in the championship until the national final in late October. Event organiser – and championship joint leader – Nick Leahy says there is much to draw teams north over the Easter break.

"Drivers who are looking for something new and different, drivers who are chasing points in the championship or looking to make up for points missed at the first round - all will be looking north at Easter, and we've got a fantastic track sorted for them, a real driver's course," said Nick Leahy.

Leahy competes in the popular and close-fought Challenger VW class. He says he has designed a course that will please drivers and excite the crowds.

Both short course and enduro tracks are plotted over rolling farmland off Molesworth Drive in Mangawhai, with fast sections, jumps and tight and tricky sections to test drivers and cars.

“It’s the first time the national championship has ventured into Northland in more than a decade; the course is all-new and self-contained at one venue; several of the big new cars didn’t front for the first round and must now play catch-up on points. All of that ensures we will have two great days of very close competition,” says Leahy.

With additional bonus points available for racers at the third round, the second round points become valuable to drivers with an eye on a class or outright title.

“So racers have to make the most of these early rounds in order to make sure they bring the best possible points tally to the final in October.”

There is also the added attraction of the location and timing of the event: held at the start of the school holidays over a long weekend at a seaside township, the event offers families and race fans a pleasant break anchored around two days of exciting motor racing.

The last time the championship raced at the seaside was at the Whitianga Festival of Speed in 2010, where the combination of new venue and the prospect of TV coverage drew a record entry that included almost every top team in the North Island.
Visitors and Mangawhai locals get their first chance to see the race cars with scrutineering at the track on Good Friday between 3pm and 6pm. Racing starts the following day at 11.00 am and ends around 3pm; Sunday's enduro starts with time trials at 9.30 and racing at 11.00 am.

Nick Leahy has organised camping areas at the track for race teams, and the prizegiving venue is just 1 km away from the track.

"We've put a lot of thought into making this a real social weekend in the old style: fierce racing, good fun, lots to see and do - and all at one venue - so camping's definitely going to be popular."

Four at the forefront

Four racers from very different classes have an equal share of the lead in the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship.

At the Manukau opening round, Grahame Steedman, Klem Christiansen, Nick Leahy and 14 year old Taine Carrington all won every heat for their respective classes - from the bellowing might of the V8-dominated ThunderTruck class (Steedman) to the tiny VW-engined class seven (Carrington), in conditions that went from cool and overcast to torrential rain that turned the clay-surfaced track to greasy ankle-deep mud.
Leahy and Carrington both survived rollovers on their way to taking top points in their classes; all four have amassed 72 points.

Close behind them in the championship stakes after the opening round, northwest Auckland racer Mike Hay gave his new Toyota Hilux its championship debut outing, winning production class to take 70 points into round two; Jason Delahunty brought his Toyota out for the first time in class four to win and carry 70 points to the next round.

Taupo’s Klem Christiansen was the class six winner and Grahame Steedman took class eight.

In the race car classes Alistair Manning came all the way from Wellington to win the Super 1300s and got 70 points for his efforts. Pukekohe's Nick Hall won two heats and survived a spin and a flat tyre to win the Leader Products Super 1600 class and take away 64 points; Whakatane's Malcolm Langley won two heats and took top points in the Whakatane Commercial Spares unlimited race car class (60) with fellow Whakatane driver Clive Thornton just one point behind on 59. Nick Leahy won the Challenger VW class and 14 year old Taine Carrington won the VW-engined class 7.

Though many had been tipping the new car of Tony McCall to dominate, it retired with gearbox problems after the first heat.

The sport's youth category, Kiwitrucks, saw Marcus Runciman of Clendon win the "J" class, taking equal top points with Jasper Ryder. Manukau's Ollie McCall won the more powerful "M" class. Runciman and McCall were making their championship debuts in Kiwitruck.

The second round of the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship will be held Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend at Mangawhai north of Auckland.

-Ends-

TOP RACING IN KIWITRUCK YOUTH CATEGORY

Eight Kiwitrucks hit the track at Manukau for the first round of the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship.
The recently introduced class makes its national championship debut this year and will closely follow the senior classes, providing added family interest at each round of the championship.

Kiwitrucks are built to two specifications: “J” class introduces new racers to the sport, and has a simple, user-friendly drivetrain; “M” class uses a more powerful motorcycle engine and has a manual shift gearbox.

In J class, Marcus Runciman of Clendon and Jasper Ryder of Whenuapai shared top points after four heats, with Fergus Crabb (Albany) third, Dyson Delahunty fourth and Alexandria Bleakley fifth.

The M class races saw Ollie McCall win the day on his racing debut ahead of Colby Langley and Jack Hawkeswood.

Kiwitrucks return to racing at the second round of the championship at Mangawhai during Easter.

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