Current production class national champion Anthony Hewitt, current ThunderTruck class points leader Gary Baker, and four of the fastest Super 1600 class cars in New Zealand head up the entry list for the 2010 Denny’s Woodhill 100, a 175 km one-day endurance race in the punishing Woodhill Forest north-west of Auckland.
With two weeks before the event happens on Sunday June 6, racers throughout New Zealand are readying their vehicles for the toughest event in the sport.
This year, the Woodhill 100 is a round of the 2010 Asset Finance New Zealand Offroad Racing National Championship. With two rounds already run – one in the North Island and one in the South island – Christchurch driver Wayne Moriarty holds a narrow points lead in his Super 1600 class Cougar Toyota.
Four Auckland drivers are aiming to change all that. Donn Attwood, James Buchanan and brothers Rick and Rene Sciarone are all driving fast, agile Super 1600 cars.
All four are well versed in the challenge offered by the Woodhill 100, and it’s arguably their “local” event, as all four hail from West Auckland.
Attwood, driving a two-seat RV Magnum with Toyota power, led the championship after the first North Island round after a fierce battle with Bu-Mac Motorsport team-mate James Buchanan, who has stepped up to the Super 1600 class this year in an immaculate and fast Evo-bodied Cougar Toyota.
“Stepping out of a VW Challenger into a class 3 is amazing. The new car just fit, first time; it feels so perfect straight out of the box that it’s uncanny.” Buchanan says the car is in many respects a rolling showcase for his engineering company’s work. “Woodhill’s THE race to try to win. The first round was cool, a great battle in the enduro, but this is the one trophy to get your name on.”
The pair are looking for a top result at Woodhill after swapping the lead in the enduro at the first North island round, Buchanan only slowing when the choking dust at that event clogged his engine’s air filter.
“We had a great battle at the first round and we are both still well placed on points for the championship. The Woodhill, being a forest race, will be a totally different challenge, but at least the course has some good fast sections with opportunities to overtake.
The Sciarone brothers, racing in a two-car team for Pinepac in Kumeu, are likewise tough racers, determined to get a clear run at the front of the field and score points in the championship. Rick Sciarone runs an Eagle framed single-seater with Nissan power, while Rene has a Chenowth with a Toyota 4AGE engine.
“Racing’s always close and fierce in this class – at the first round there were 22 of us! We’re confident of being able to get in front of the Bu-Mac guys and push for a win,” said Rick.
“The four of us are contenders for the win. The biggest thing will be getting a good grid position and staying at the front in the early laps, then trying not to take each other out as the race settles down!”
The Super 1600 class may well deliver the race winner this year. The 2009 race was won by Alan Butler in an Evo-bodied Cougar Toyota Super 1600, both rounds of the championship so far this year have been won outright by Super 1600 entries. Also back for another run is 2009 winner Alan Butler, who this year can choose between his new US-built class one Millennium single-seater and the Cougar that took him to victory last year. Butler says he is leaning toward the Cougar “because those tracks can get narrow, and because the car knows how to win out there on the sand tracks and logging roads.”
Devlin Hill is also entered in an Evo-bodied Cougar.
In the top buggy class, Neville “Max” Smith is back for another run at the Woodhill in his Honda turbo-powered Cougar. Whakatane driver Clive Thornton is bringing his two-seater Southern Cross race car, newly re-powered from GM V6 to Chev V8, though he is unlikely to be taking the wheel himself, having fractured his back in a crash at the first round of the championship. Thornton’s son Max is likely to take the wheel.
Also in the top buggy class are two racers making a trip south to compete. From Whangarei comes experienced racer Melvin Rouse, in a Nissan-powered class one car. Former Woodhill winner Clim Lammers of Hikurangi is notorious for entering the event at the last minute but is expected to turn out in his fast Nissan-powered class one car.
Waiting to take advantage of any weakness in the super-competitive buggy class though are the trucks. The Woodhill has never been won by a truck in its 30 year history. But with South Head’s Raana Horan bringing his powerful Nissan Titan V8 ThunderTruck and current ThunderTruck class championship points leader Gary Baker bringing his rear wheel drive Nissan Navara V8, the race has two competitors well capable of circulating in the top five and snaring a win.
The production class could turn up a strong result this year as well. Traditionally, Woodhill has been too tough for the production trucks, which lack the suspension development possible in the faster, lighter buggies or the “unlimited” ThunderTruck class.
This year, production class entries are headed by Anthony Hewitt, “Mr Bilstein” in his mighty red Dodge 1500 4X4 V8. The truck is a mobile shop window for his business, Race Shock Specialties, which supplies and installs suspension components for race, road, rally and offroad race vehicles.
In the “improved” truck class, the first entry is Gary Scott in his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo. Scott, an endurance race specialist, has won his class at Woodhill before. He’s another semi-local, hailing from Waimauku.
In class five for Super 1300 cars, Phil Finlay of Pukekohe is the first entry.
Organisers are not expecting any entries from the South Island this year: because the race is a round of the national championship, entrants must choose whether they will race in the north or the south when they start their championship season. Racers competing for points in the south cannot also earn points in the north.
The 2010 Denny’s Woodhill 100 takes place at Queen’s Birthday Weekend, with scrutineering on Saturday June 5 at PinePac in Kumeu and the qualifying and the race itself happening on Sunday June 6. The new course starts north of Parakai and is signposted from the Helensville-Parakai roundabout.
Credit: Veritas Communications Ltd