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First blood to Ruiterman as 2020 JG Civil NZ offroad racing championship kicks off

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Pukekohe racer Carl Ruiterman has scored the first win of the 2020 JG Civil New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship - though today he is nursing bruises and muscle pain from the pummelling dished out by the deceptively rough farm course.

The opening round, the Daltons 250, was a 232 km endurance race held on Saturday across the hills and valleys of a massive farm west of the Waitomo Caves in the King Country.

After scoring ther fastest time in qualifying, Ruiterman started from pole and only briefly relinquished the lead to team-mate Joel Giddy on lap 10 before retaking control for the sprint to the finish.

The team ran their modified Yamaha YXZ on the highest suspension setting they have ever used.

"I was glad we did, and still I’m feeling the beating we took. It’s that trade-off - do you go slow and miss the chance to get past someone or do you just take the hammering?"

The course shook loose several body panels on the car, which otherwise ran without a fault.

For one leading competitor the event almost ended in disaster even before the green light was shown. Torbay’s Chris Whyte was pushing his big NZ-built unlimited class car hard, aiming for a top grid position among the UTVs. As he reached the last corner of the qualifying lap, he spun backward into the fence and the big Chev-powered car was flung violently back across the track.

"I knew I was too fast going in but by that time I couldn’t do anything so we just had to ride it out," he said afterward.

The 1500 kg car was unscathed apart from a few scratches and Whyte was able to grid up. He withdrew late in the race when the car’s modified LS7 Chev V8 developed a misfire.

Dust was an issue from the second lap onward as Ruiterman, Giddy, Dion Edgecombe and Scott Munro formed a flying four-pack of UTVs and set out to dominate the race.

Munro fell back behind Brian Rutgers and was also overtaken by leading unlimited class racer Regan Swensson who had started from 11th but was charging through the field and would finish up fourth.

Leading U class racer Leigh Bishop was one of a number who struck overheating issues as the race wore on.

Shane Huxtable of Napier was making the championship debut for his new self-built race truck. He started 15th, and was enjoying the power of the truck’s modified LS1 Chev V8. Then on lap ten he had the unique experience of being driven into from the front.

"We were chasing another class one, and there aren’t many places to pass when your vehicle has similar pace to the one you are trying to pass. The guy went wrong at an intersection, and we had to stop as well - then he reversed straight into us!"

The impact destroyed the Huxtable truck’s front bumper and broke the mounts of the bonnet. A quick stop to remove the bonnet and the truck was back on course. He finished 11th and won his class, the truck having forced him to lap slower near the end as it overheated.

Whangarei’s Arin Riwhi was in more terminal trouble after four laps (nearly 100 km) of the race. His 4WD Bits class four Toyota Hilux broke a front right lower suspension.

"We also found the gas tank was cracked so we were lucky we stopped!"

Event co-organiser Maurice Bain brought his US-built Crumco VW Baja out in class nine and won the class, while there were two entries in class ten for motorcycle-engined cars - Neil Hook and Mark Seymour.

Hook started 25th and shot up through the field in the first lap, overtaking 11 others. He completed 16 laps to win his class and finish 12th overall.

Only three competitors completed the full 18 laps: Ruiterman, Giddy and third-placed Dion Edgecombe of Matamata, the trio creating an all-UTV podium. Giddy set the fastest race lap of the day: 11:19.618.

The next northern round is at Makarau, northwest of Auckland, during Easter Weekend.

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