The oldest, longest and toughest endurance race in New Zealand off-roading - the 32nd Woodhill 100 - offers North Island drivers a final chance to top up their championship points this weekend.
The Woodhill 100 will test racers over 246km of flat-out racing in a forest otherwise closed to motorsport - a rare chance to see top-level action in the vast pine forests of the northwest, with the fastest off-road drivers in New Zealand.
The race is shaping to be a showdown between imported American tech and the best of Kiwi design and engineering.
The length is up from 210km last year. The distance, plotted on fast logging roads and sand tracks, makes this the longest race in the 2012 Mickey Thompson New Zealand Off-road Racing Championship.
The US' stars and stripes could be flown at the podium with two leading unlimited-class teams running the latest US-built desert race cars.
Recent Woodhill and Taupo 1000 champion Clive Thornton (Whakatane) will be a top contender in his new Desert Dynamics two-seater race car with Chev V8 power, while Alan Butler (Mt Albert) has finished upgrading his US-built Millennium single-seater from Honda power to a race-prepared Mitsubishi Evo turbo engine. He will make his first championship appearance of the year.
In the Super 1600 class 3, Auckland's Devlin Hill and Nick Hall of Pukekohe will also field American cars. Hill won the championship's previous northern round at Mangawhai over Easter. Hall, the 2011 North Island champion, pilots a Stadium car.
Heading up the top Kiwi cars is multiple national champion and five-times Woodhill 100 winner Tony McCall (Manukau) in his new BSL Terra Chev. The single-seater dominated at the second round until it destroyed a CV joint on the second day with just 10 laps left. McCall says he's still in the hunt for the outright title.
"The genesis of this car from CAD drawing to turnkey racer has been extremely fast. The thick mud at Mangawhai identified a need for more engine-cooling capability, and the CV joint we broke there showed the articulation at the rear was too much. So we have come down in ride height to reduce the angle from 25 degrees to 20. That means we reduce our suspension travel by a couple of inches - but there's still around five inches more than the previous car had," he said.
McCall has switched to sponsor Mickey Thompson's tyres.
"We've now reached a point where case and compound matter as much as tread design. The power of the engine is just massive and we need a good set of covers to get the power down. That's going to be critical in the sand at Woodhill."
Now in its 32nd year, the Woodhill 100 is the oldest event in New Zealand off-road racing and the longest continually-running endurance race in Kiwi motorsport.
Organisers say they have plotted a race course that will take drivers further into the northern end of the forest than last year, and will start the event from a new pit/start area reached in the same way as in previous years. Entry numbers are expected to follow the strong upward trend at the first and second northern rounds. Drivers who have raced at both rounds net an additional 20 points by contesting the Woodhill.
Taine Carrington (West Harbour), at 14 the youngest racer to lead the youth section points chase, is running a new class 7 car after crashing last year.
There will be a separate race for the Kiwi trucks youth category at 7.30am on race morning using part of the main racecourse. Though it is a forest endurance race, spectators turn out in significant numbers to catch the action - more than 2500 fans through the gate last year - with plentiful vantage points close to the start-finish area and the leading racers topping 220km/h on the faster sections.