Things were looking bleak on Friday when the practise and qualifying was scheduled to start at the 2015 NZRCA IC Off-Road North Island Champs. Most cars got on the track for a practise before the rain came and flooded the track. Fast forward a few hours, and after hundreds of buckets of muddy water removed, the track was finally open and qualifying got under way.
After 2 rounds of qualifying on the Friday and two more on Saturday morning it was clear that SVG was going to be the man to beat after winning 3 of his 4 qualifiers in Truggy missing out on one due to what looked like a short lap being taken off his time. Auckland driver and current NZ National Truggy Champ Craig Underwood, current NZ National Buggy Champ Chris Banham and local racer and last year’s North Island Champ Gage Peters all had a good go at Shane Van Gisbergen but it wasn’t to be and SVG walked away with TQ.
In Buggy SVG was the only racer to do an 11 lap race. Auckland Racer’s Shane O’Connor, Chris Banham and Jerry Davis, all took turns to chase down SVG all getting a 2nd place with the latter, Jerry, getting two 2nd’s. It was starting to look like the V8 Supercar Driver was unbeatable taking TQ in Both classes.
The A Main Finals were 45 Minutes long and many of the drivers had back to back races as they were in both Mains. The Truggy final was first with SVG on Pole, and some of New Zealand’s best right behind him. Shane took an early lead with Craig Underwood and Jonathan Coluccio chasing him down but Coluccio ran into some trouble and was next seen off the stand. Gage Peters was following Jonathan and took the 3rd place spot with Mark Johnston hot on his tail. Something had Chris Banham at the wrong end of the results seeing him fight his way back from 12th to 3rd and having it out with Underwood for second. Gage and Mark continued to chase down the top three spots but it wasn’t to be for Gage when he started losing positions. Mark continued on to secure 4th place. Making a very impressive first appearance at last year’s South Island Champs was young gun Jayden Jamieson. After just squeezing into the A Main qualifying 12th Jamieson proved he was meant to be there as he slowly picked off racers and made his way up to a 5th place finish.
In the end, even with a flame out Shane Van Gisbergen took the win with an impressive 2 lap lead on the field. Current NZ Truggy Champ Craig Underwood took 2nd and Current NZ Buggy Champ Chris Banham took 3rd.
Now all that was left was the 45 minute Buggy A Main. The line-up included TQ Shane Van Gisbergen, Current NZ Truggy Champ Craig Underwood and multiple EP Off-Road Champ Shane O’Connor. With the race under way, once again SVG took an early lead and it stayed that way right to the end. Shane O’Connor got taken out at the start seeing him fight back from 8th to 3rd and then 2nd. A second podium for Current NZ Truggy Champ Craig Underwood wasn’t meant to be with his Transmitter ceasing up giving him a couple of millimetres between full throttle and full brakes with no neutral. He drove like this for 15 minutes but it was too much in the end. Jerry Davis had a very good drive sitting in second until facing it off with Shane O’Connor with the two of them swapping between 2nd and 3rd in the end Shane got in front of Jerry but Jerry still making the podium in 3rd. Shave Van Gisbergen won the Buggy A Main by 3 Laps.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend and the weather while up and down, managed to stay fine long enough to get through 90% of the original planned programme. Although the titles both when to NZ Born but Australian Registered Racer Shane Van Gisbergen, if they had to go overseas they couldn’t of gone with a better guy. It was a pleasure to have SVG here in Taranaki mixing into the NZ Scene. Van Gisbergen winning just means one thing… now he has to come back next year and defend his new titles.
SVG as well as other competitors from this weekend will be completing at the 2015 NZRCA 1/10th EP Off-Road Nationals Champs held by Counties at the beginning of April. I’m sure SVG will be looking to continue the dominance he showed this weekend and keep New Zealand racers on their toes.
Photos by Kendall Photography, Race Report by NZRCA