Off-Road Racers Make A Splash At Meremere

Drivers get down and dirty at Meremere. Picture: Mike Peffers.
Drivers get down and dirty at Meremere. Picture: Mike Peffers.

Waking up at the crack of dawn isn’t exactly how you would want to start a Sunday.

Reaching the Meremere ATR racetrack at 6:30 am already tired and hungry was a great start to the day.

With the track being flooded due to overflow from the Waikato river, it was a race against time to get a new track marked out and have the officials make the final decision on whether the event could go ahead.

Trying to set up everything in the dark was something that the club didn’t quite take into consideration. Setting up all the paperwork was just a little issue using the classic iPhone torch, but when the generator kicked into gear and we got power, it made life a lot easier.

Due to part of the track being flooded they were unable to use the MXT Timing transponders. So it was back to the manual lap scoring. It definitely became a challenge once the numbers blended in with the mud on the car.

Trying to scribble down numbers as fast as you can while five race cars fly past at an extreme pace was harder than I thought it was going to be. With myself calling the numbers and Louise Houghton, Vanessa Russel and Tash from MXT Timing writing down the race car numbers, we made a great team and by the end of the day, we had a pretty good system in place.

The weather became an issue over the usual problem of dust. The track had to be changed a couple of times due to the river overflowing and slowly taking over the track. Many drivers had issues with their mud munchers not coping with the mud and having to switch to tear off wasn’t their ideal plan for racing, but they were there to race so they definitely weren’t complaining.

Despite the tough track conditions the drivers still put on a show. With Tony Mcall (157) breaking within the first lap making everyone’s day and Ben Thomason (S1) nearly sliding into a concrete barrier, the wet conditions made for an interesting days racing.

With the track slowly becoming underwater as the daylight grew, the driver’s talents came into play. Puddles nearly becoming mini lakes and some driver’s cars becoming partly submerged for a few seconds while drivers are trying to make it out of the growing puddle. The water splash that the cars were making were huge, sometimes covering the whole vehicle and cars following close behind.

As the track got changed throughout the day a berm that drivers usually use going in the opposite direction, was being used as an entry on the new part of the track. Many drivers were sliding onto that part of the track on two wheels and sliding to correct themselves before they would connect with a concrete barrier. It made for a heart clenching couple of seconds as you were waiting to see if they could correct themselves or not.

Track visibility was definitely something that was a struggle at times. With some drivers going straight at a corner and nearly ending up in a ditch. Others were just struggling to see so they had to pull into the infield and clean their goggles.

Due to the weather, the first round of the North Island national championship was a memorable time. Most drivers are now cleaning all the mud out of their cars and making changes for the second round of the series which takes place over Queens Birthday weekend in June.

Gallery: Action Shots from the event.

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Caitlin Houghton
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