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MORIARTY LEADS THE CHARGE
Christchurch racer Wayne Moriarty has taken top points at the 2012 Mainland Challenge, advancing to the front of the southern region championship points table in the process.
Driving his Euroblast Cougar Toyota, Moriarty won every heat for the Leader Products Class Three Super 1600 category at West Melton on Saturday, fighting off determined attacks from fellow Christchurch driver Nigel Sutherland in a similar car. He followed that with an emphatic win at the 198 km endurance race at Ohoko on Sunday, chasing early leader Hamish Lawlor and sweeping into the lead when Lawlor’s Barracuda Suzuki blew its engine.
Competition at the first day of the Mainland Challenge took the form of in-class ‘short course’ or stadium-style heats at the Canterbury Offroad Racing Club’s purpose-built race track at West Melton.
Racing in class three was close all day, but Moriarty controlled the points chase, fighting off Nigel Sutherland to win every heat.
Moriarty was one of seven racers who took top points in their classes on the first , and takes the overall southern region lead due to his second placing at the championship’s opening southern round, held at Nelson in April.
The other class winners to take top points were Vince Harvey, Whakatane Commercial Spares class one; Ian Simcox, class two for production four wheel drives; Darrin Thomason, class four for sports four wheel drives, Clint Densem, class five for Super 1300 race cars, Donald Preston, class eight for Thundertrucks, and Hamish Lawlor, class ten for ‘Odyssey’ race cars. In the Kiwitruck youth race category, Ollie McCall won M class and Dyson Delahunty won J class.
On the second day Donald Preston set the fastest qualifying time for the race, but started off the back of the field due to having entered late for the event. Similarly affected was Hamish Lawlor in his Suzuki Hayabusa powered Barracuda single-seater.
With three wins from three starts on the Saturday adding to his points from the first round, Moriarty came to the endurance race needing to qualify in the top four or five and stay in touch with the early leaders to make sure of maximum class points.
It was Nigel Sutherland, however, who took pole for the race, with class five racer Clint Densem 0.6 seconds behind. Moriarty was just behind Densem and 0.8 seconds adrift of Sutherland.
At the start, racers went out single-file. The three top drivers were quickly battling for the lead, the best of the trucks Roger MacKay's Nissan in fifth. MacKay began to lose touch as the forty-strong field headed out into the five kilometre lap of the fast but slippery farm course.
Hamish Lawlor and Donald Preston were on a charge up through the field, Lawlor's job made easier than Preston's due to the diminutive dimensions and excellent power to weight ratio of his Barracuda. Preston was making steady progress in his Hilux, but the drive of the opening laps belonged to Lawlor, who had sprinted up through half the field by the end of the lap and a lap alter was among the leaders. After five laps, the Tuatapere driver had taken the lead and was putting a gap on the field at the rate of five seconds per lap. Wayne Moriarty had taken the first few laps to settle into the drive but now fought through to overtake Clint Densem and was working on Nigel Sutherland's second position.
As Moriarty overtook Nigel Sutherland to hold second Lawlor was more than 30 seconds ahead of the field and driving with aggression and panache, drifting the little Barracuda through the many fast corners of the course.
Lawlor had led this race in 2011 only to have a drivetrain failure put him out, but this year it seemed he was able to dictate the pace at will.
So the race progressed, with Lawlor leading Moriarty and Sutherland, Densem staying in touch and Preston forcing his Hilux up through the field.
Bryan Chang qualified eighth outright in his GT Radial Ford Falcon Thundertruck, and had held the class lead until the massive power of the Preston Hilux became too much to resist. Chang was battling falling fuel pressure to his truck's turbocharged engine, but maintained a steady pace after Preston swept past and in the later part of the race the tide in ThunderTruck turned back in his favour. Exiting a long gentle right hand turn, the Preston truck slewed sideways and slowed before pulling off the track, its right rear suspension arm torn loose. He was marooned on the course infield, unable to get back to the pits to make repairs, and was out of the race.
Chang maintained his pace as best he could with his fuel issues and would run to the chequered flag to take the class win, finishing up ninth overall for the weekend. Preston's DNF pushed him down to 17th for the weekend.
Soon after the demise of the Preston truck, Lawlor too was missing, the Barracuda's Suzuki Hayabusa engine exploding after a conrod came adrift.
Moriarty then moved into a commanding lead and played a well-crafted strategic run to the flag that included a 'splash and dash' for fuel with five laps to run. Though the Ohoko course is open and fast and a strong favourite of drivers in the championship, attrition was fierce. There were only 14 cars finished the enduro of the 29 that started the weekend, and only Wayne Moriarty and Nigel Sutherland were on the lead lap at the finish.
Moriarty's enduro victory gave the Christchurch driver maximum points for the weekend and the lead in the southern regional points battle with one further southern round remaining.
The championship focus shifts to Twizel in August for the last of three South Island rounds, a short course event held in tandem with the non-championship Twizel 250 endurance race. Competitors who have contested the first two rounds and start the Twizel race on August 25 will receive a bonus 20 points.