Motorsport: Duel for dual titles

By Colin Smith

The entry level motorsport disciplines of motorkhana and autocross are tyre torturing, elbow flailing tests of precision driving. You might wonder if the competitors are auditioning for Goodbye Pork Pie or perhaps Top Gear Live.

The Motorsport NZ ClubSport Championship held in the Baypark Speedway pit area on Saturday saw Napier's Brent Redington claim his third consecutive national motorkhana title while Tauranga's Ben Thomasen became a double national champion by clinching the autocross crown just six days after winning the Hillclimb Champs near Westport.

With Redington at the wheel of a tiny Honda City and Thomasen driving his full rally-spec Subaru Impreza WRX, it was a David and Goliath-like duel.

Redington turns motorkhanas into an art form, making the Honda rapidly change direction between the cones, sliding into "garages" and completing graceful 180-degree "Hopkirk" spins from reverse into forward motion. "You have to be precise," says Redington. "It's five seconds (penalty) if you hit a cone, so just one cone and it's all over.

"It's a standing start and a stop in a garage with a bit of reversing as well.

"You have to keep your momentum up all the time. If you're spinning your wheels you're not going anywhere."

Redington's nimble Honda hatch weighs just 700kg and has a 1.6-litre engine transplanted from an early Honda CRX.

"It used to be a club circuit car before I got it. I've changed the suspension a bit for motorkhanas but it also goes well in autocrosses and hill climbs."

Redington, who spend his work days on the highways as an owner-operator truck driver, says car club events are a perfect grounding for young drivers.

"I strongly recommend it to anyone who is learning to drive and getting their licence.

"You only need an old car costing a few hundred dollars to have a go and the basic skills you'll learn can save you on the road."

Redington was unbeaten on all six of the motorkhana tests to take a convincing victory margin in the first element of the ClubSport Champs.

Results are decided by a ratio system, with Redington's 100 per cent score well ahead of Wellington's Neil Roots, also in a Honda City, who has nearly 14 seconds behind and scored 91.63 points.

A Honda hat-trick was completed by local Motorsport BOP competitor Shane Ward in a CRX with 87.44 points.

Thomasen managed a credible fifth in the motorkhana (85.27 points) although in the reversing plus the Subaru's four-wheel drive and big turning circle proved a challenge.

In the more open spaces of the autocross, Thomasen drove with flair and was the convincing winner ahead of Wellington drivers Peter Collins (Toyota Corolla) and Alan Groves (Subaru Impreza) with Redington in fourth position.

The event saw 36 drivers in action and notably a 72-year age gap between Thames Valley Car Club junior driver Cameron Davies (13) and Te Puke's Shirley Faull, an 85-year-old stalwart of local car club events.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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