Motorsport: Duo laps up tough race

By Colin Smith

It was 14 hours and 41 minutes of grind behind the wheel for Mt Maunganui's Jason and Tania Delahunty in last weekend's Taupo 1000 international off-road endurance race.

A well-judged drive in their Holden V6-powered Toyota LandCruiser saw the couple finish the gruelling 1000km race in 12th place overall and third in class (Class 6 for modified road registered vehicles).

The two-day race uses a 50km Kaingaroa Forest track with crews setting out to complete 10 laps (500km) each day.

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever done from a mental point of view," said Jason Delahunty.

"You're bouncing up and down, left and right the whole time. By lap four you get into a groove and by about lap six or seven you get tired and the brain starts to wander a bit. That's when having a good co-driver really helps."

The Delahuntys got their mechanical problems out of the way early in the race and then enjoyed a trouble-free drive.

"On the first lap the exhaust manifold almost fell off so I had to stop and we fixed that. But we still managed to complete all 10 laps on Saturday and get up to fifth in class."

From 22nd overnight a non-stop 10-lap drive on Sunday saw the Delahuntys complete 10 laps at a pace 25 minutes better than day one. They finished 10th for the day and climbed to 12th place overall - one of 13 crews from the 83 starters to go the full 1000km distance.

"Sunday went flawlessly and by using fifth gear as much as I could we did 10 laps without stopping for fuel. We had really good communication in the car and also by radio back to our pit crew so we always knew how we were doing.

"I had set out to make up 30 minutes on the car in front on the Sunday and in the end we missed out on second place in class by six minutes. Sunday we were in the top 10 overall and second in class and I was really pleased with that."

The race was run in fine weather but an early frost made the central plateau forest roads icey in the opening laps each morning.

"The frost made it very slippery for the first couple of laps and then the track came good in the middle of the day," said Delahunty.

"But it was strange because by about the eighth lap it was getting slippery again as if the water was coming out of the ground. It was actually flowing down the road in a few places."

Delahunty is the recently-crowned New Zealand Class 6 short course champion but was attempting the biennial 1000km race for the first time.

"It's a great event and very well organised. We had a really good run and I don't know if I could pull that sort of luck out again.

"Every time I sit in my truck it makes me grin.

"That's why we haven't built anything faster but when the straights are so long and your top speed is about 140km/h maybe I will for next time."

The race was won by Australian Brad Prout driving a Class 1 Jimco single-seater powered by 6.0-litre Chevrolet V8 engine.

Prout finished 90 minutes ahead of Colin Meredith (Matamata) in a Holden powered Southern Cross Class 1 racer with top qualifier Raana Horan (Red Beach) making up time from first day delays to finish only four minutes further back in his supercharged V8 Nissan Titan Class 8 truck.

More events added

Young Tauranga racing driver Richie Stanaway has had two more events added to his programme by his management company Gravity Sports.

With a commanding lead in the German Formula 3 Championship Stanaway, 19, will step up to the GP3 category to race for the front-running Lotus ART team starting this weekend at the support races for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Stanaway will also race at the Italian Grand Prix (September 9-11) at Monza which is the final round of the GP3 Championship. There are two races each weekend.

The GP3 category is a Formula 1 support class with spec formula chassis and 280bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged Renault engines. Young Kiwi racer Mitch Evans is currently sixth in the championship and Lotus ART driver Valterri Bottas (Finland) is the championship leader.

Stanaway tested a GP3 car earlier this season but won't get a chance to drive one again in the lead up to the Spa event.

The GP3 chance means Stanaway will be racing on four consecutive weekends with the next rounds of the German F3 Championship at Lausitzring on September 3-4 and Assen on September 17-18.

Improved showing

Tauranga's Phil Campbell and co-driver Venita Fabbro enjoyed their best NZ Rally Championship performance of the season at the series final in Hawke's Bay last weekend.

With an untroubled run through the two-day event in his Ford Fiesta ST, Campbell finished 17th on Saturday and trailed Group N 2WD champ Ben Hunt by just 23.1secs. On Sunday's longer stages Campbell was 13th overall and only 53.7 seconds behind Hunt at the end of the rally.

"It's the first rally we've done all year without any problems," Campbell said.

"The first day was really short with a couple of stages cancelled but on the second day the roads were awesome - fast and flowing which really suits our car.

"On a few stages Ben got away from us slightly but we were close on some stages and beat him on one stage on Saturday. We are not as far behind him as we were earlier in the season," said Campbell.

"It was a trouble-free run apart from the brakes playing up a little bit on the first stage on Sunday.

"We've learnt a lot this year and it was good to end the championship with a good result," said Campbell.

Campbell also plans to contest the Gisborne Rally next month and the Rally of the North in October to complete his 2011 campaign.

Eighth overall

Mount Maunganui's Mason Phillips has completed his Canadian motocross campaign with eighth overall in the MX1 championship.

A weather affected final round at Walton, Ontario on Sunday saw a tornado hit a nearby town and the racers battled with high winds, torrential rain and hail. Only one MX1 race was completed with Phillips riding his Kini Red Bull KTM to 12th place.

The extreme weather also saw the second MX2 moto reduced in duration and run on a shortened track.

Phillips' team-mate Kieran Leigh (Cambridge) was 25th in the first moto and 17th in the shortened second race.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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