The oldest, longest, fastest and toughest endurance race in New Zealand offroad racing offers North Island racers a final chance to top up their championship points tally this weekend.
The 32nd Woodhill 100 will test the best racers in the sport over a record 246 km of flat-out racing in a forest that is otherwise closed to motorsport. This year, the race is shaping to be a showdown between imported American tech and the best of Kiwi race car design and engineering and a rare chance to see top-level race action in the vast pine forests of the northwest, up close and personal with the fastest offroad race drivers in New Zealand.
The 2012 Woodhill 100 has announced backing this year from Frontline Projects and will run this year to a record 246 kilometres, up from 210 in 2011. The race distance, plotted on the fast logging roads and sand tracks of Woodhill Forest, makes this the longest endurance race in the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship..
Old Glory – the USA’s stars and stripes flag – could be proudly flown at the Woodhill podium this year with two leading unlimited-class teams running the very latest US-built desert race cars.
Recent Woodhill and Taupo 1000 champion Clive Thornton of Whakatane will be a top contenders in their new Desert Dynamics two-seater race car with Chev V8 power; Mt Albert’s Alan Butler has finished upgrading his American-built Millennium single-seater from Honda power to a race-prepared Mitsubishi Evo turbo engine and will make his first championship appearance of the year. In class three for Super 1600 cars, Auckland’s Devlin Hill and Nick Hall of Pukekohe will also field American cars. Hill was the outright winner of the previous northern round of the championship, held at Mangawhai over Easter.
This year the race will be a showdown between these late-model American race cars and the best Kiwi cars. Flying the American flag are Alan Butler (Millennium single seater with Mitsubishi Evo power), Devlin Hill (Hustler) and Clive and Max Thornton (Chev powered Desert Dynamics two – seater) and 2011 North Island champion Nick Hall in a class three stadium car. Heading up the top Kiwi cars is multiple national champion and five-times Woodhill 100 winner Tony McCall of Manukau in his all-new BSL Terra Chev. The blond racer in his all-new single-seater car dominated at the second round until the BSL Terra destroyed a cv joint on the second day with just 10 laps of the enduro left to run. McCall says he’s still in the hunt for the outright title.
“The genesis of this car from CAD drawing to turnkey racer has been extremely fast. The thick mud at Mangawhai identified a need for more engine cooling capability, and the CV joint we broke there showed the articulation at the rear was too much so we have come down in ride height to reduce the angle from 25 degrees to 20. That means we reduce our suspension travel by a couple of inches – but there’s still around five inches more than the previous car had,” he said.
In addition, McCall has switched to series sponsor Mickey Thompson’s tyres.
“We’ve now reached a point where case and compound matter as much as tread design, the power of the engine is just massive and we need a good set of covers to get the power down. That’s going to be critical in the sand at Woodhill.”
Leading the championship to date is 14 year old Taine Carrington of West Harbour, who is the youngest ever racer to lead the points chase. Carrington is running a new class 7 car this year after crashing at last year’s Woodhill 100. He won his class at the first and second North Island rounds of the championship, but now must focus on running consistently at Woodhill to secure as many points as possible heading into the championship final.
Now in its 32nd year, the Woodhill 100 is the oldest event in New Zealand offroad racing and is the longest continually-running endurance race in New Zealand motorsport.
Organisers say they have plotted a new race course that uses the best of last year’s roads but will take the drivers further into the northern end of the forest than last year, and will start the event from a new pit/start area accessed in the same way as in previous years. Entry numbers are expected to follow the strong upward trend at the first and second northern rounds of the championship, with drivers who have raced at both rounds able to net an additional 20 points by contesting the Woodhill.
There will be a separate race for the Kiwitrucks youth category at 7.30 am on race morning using part of the main event race course. Though it is a forest endurance race, spectators turn out in significant numbers to catch the action – more than 2500 paying race fans through the gate in 2011 – with plentiful vantage points close to the start-finish area and the leading racers topping 220km/h on the faster sections of the course. Ollie McCall leads the “M” class Kiwitrucks championship race while Fergus Crabb leads the “J” class.
The first chance to see the cars will be at scrutineering on the Saturday of Queen’s Birthday Weekend between noon and 3 pm at PinePac Kumeu. Qualifying and the race will all take place on the Sunday, June 3; with the qualifying sprints run from 8.30 am and race start at 11.00 am. The forest access for the race will be signposted for northern and southern traffic at the roundabout on SH16 near Parakai. Admission is $10/adult, children under 15 are free.