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International teams arrive in country, head for Taupo

International teams arrive in country, head for Taupo
New truck entry for rallyman Hawkeswood
Mike Marshall makes offroad racing debut
Four previous winners among entry list

International offroad race teams are headed for the resort town of Taupo as preparations for the toughest offroad endurance race in the southern hemisphere are wrapped up ready for the coming weekend of high speed action.

The Asset Finance Taupo 1000 is a two-day 1000 kilometre forest endurance race that has become the sport’s Australasian flagship event. With a pre-entry list of more than 100, organisers are expecting an all-time record grid for the race start on Saturday August 20 including four overseas race teams.

Returning to New Zealand for another run at the title are father and son team Tom and Roly Dixon of Australia.

Tom will race the team’s Southern Cross Chev two-seater, while Roly will steer the debut of an all-new race car: an American-designed Crumco VW that is built with the current model VW Beetle bodyshell and a powerful turbocharged V6 engine. The team have entered both Roly Dixon and Kiwi rally legend Mike Marshall, who is making his first ever offroad race start.

“We wanted to bring the new car here to gauge interest in an idea we have for a series featuring these vehicles, possibly even a trans-Tasman competition. This will be the first time anyone has seen the car at a race, and the first time it turns a wheel in anger. Mike was our pit boss at the last race and he’s fizzing to have a drive – though he wasn’t so keen to navigate for me!”

Another leading Australian racer, Brad Prout, is bringing his Chev-engined unlimited-class car to Taupo, having raced at the previous Taupo 1000 with Roly Dixon.

From Florida comes Mike Hughes, who will drive the Ford F150 desert truck formerly campaigned to good effect at Taupo by Warren Arthur and Colin Sandford. The big truck has been re-fettled by Phil Cameron in Auckland.

A new American race truck will also front the event in the hands of Andrew Hawkeswood, formerly a leading rally competitor at national and international level. The big V8-engined Chev truck made a brief appearance at the Woodhill 100 to gauge its competitiveness in forest racing and many expect it will prove to be competitive in the fast but occasionally rough forest course plotted at Taupo.

Top truck-class hope for outright victory is the supercharged V8 engines Nissan Titan of Red Beach’s Raana Horan, who won the 2011 Woodhill 100 and capped that with a win at the Gwavas 175 a month ago.

Across four classes, four wheel drive and rear wheel drive trucks make up more than half of the entry list, with 14 production class entries alone. The unlimited-class truck field headed by Horan is 12-strong.

Race organiser Tony Saelman says though records of entries in the first couple of events are not available, the 2011 entry is certainly the biggest in the years he has been involved in the race.

“We have the most volunteers, the most entries, the most international teams ever, and we will have the biggest pit lane village the race has ever seen. Support for the race has been amazing, both locally and from overseas.”

Unlimited class race cars are the most numerous, with entries currently standing at 16.
The top class includes a US-designed Desert Dynamics car with Chev V8 power for defending champions Clive and Max Thornton of Whakatane, and another Chev V8-engined car dubbed the “gamechanger” built by the BSL Racing workshop for multiple Taupo winner Tony McCall.

This revolutionary new design places the engine amidships with the transmission at the rear for improved weight distribution, and adopts a formula-style body design based on the successful American “Millennium” cars. The BSL Terra Chev makes its race debut at Taupo.

Defending New Zealand offroad racing champion Donn Attwood is confirmed to bring his RV Magnum Toyota two-seater to the race.

The event will feature at least four former Taupo winners, all racing in the unlimited class: the Thorntons, McCall, Clim Lammers of Hikurangi and Alan Butler of Mt Albert.

An innovative class 8 truck entry comes from Christchurch: Bryan Chang’s new GT Radials Ford Falcon follows an American design and runs a Nissan SR20 turbo engine, kept well within the wheelbase for optimal handling. Chang crashed in a recent national championship round and has been racing to get the truck repaired for the event.

Likely to run at the sharp end of the field is Winton’s Donald Preston, who has been steadily developing his Toyota Hilux, which runs in the same class as Horan’s V8 supercharged Nissan Titan. Both the Preston and Horan trucks are four wheel drive, Preston’s running a Lexus V8 with an Eaton supercharger.

There are 13 entries in the popular class 6 for winch challenge and road registered four wheel drive trucks including the Land Rover Discovery V8 of Aucklander Craig Lord and current national championship class leader Jason Delahunty of Tauranga in his Toyota Land Cruiser.

A strong candidate for a sport truck (class 4) win in his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo is Gary Scott of West Auckland.

The 2011 Taupo 1000 starts with qualifying at the track, which is accessed off the Taupo-Napier highway, on Friday August 19. Racing in two legs of 500 km will be held in the forest on Saturday and Sunday August 20 and 21. The venue is signposted from the highway.

© Scoop Media

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