Offroad racing stars prepare to do battle at Mangawhai

| Photographer Credit: MArk Baker

Championship offroad action hits the sleepy seaside village of Mangawhai this Easter as the best race drivers in New Zealand contest the opening round of the New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship.

A one day short course event on March 26, the event follows a successful round organised by Nick Leahy three years ago. The venue is on Hilltop Road, three km outside the village.

The track is on rolling farm land with four natural terrain jumps that Nick Leahy says will frighten most drivers speechless. Racing on a short course format means the track is fully viewable from spectator areas and spectator parking is onsite.

“Mangawhai was a very enthusiastic host of the original event, and they have been asking ever since when the championship would come back. So here it is, and already the top racers are gathering.”

Leahy says the short course events are spectacular and exciting for spectators and always bring out fierce competition between drivers.

“The top racers are starting to finalise their plans for the weekend. Our first entry is Mike Fraser in his stunningly prepared V8 single-seater, and we know Tony McCall, Nick Hall, Ben Thomasen and others are close behind. It’s going to be epic!”

Nick Leahy says the racing draws people north from Auckland, picks up families staying in Mangawhai for the Easter holiday break and also attracts race fans from other parts of Northland. The inaugural event drew a crowd of more than 3500. He expects word of mouth will see the turnout grow beyond that number this time.

The ENZED short course at Mangawhai is the first of seven national championship rounds, with the all-in final set down for Twizel at Labour Weekend.

Mark Baker has been working in automotive PR and communications for more than two decades. For much longer than that he has been a motorsport journalist, photographer and competitor, witness to most of the most exciting and significant motorsport trends and events of the mid-late 20th Century. His earliest memories of motorsport were trips to races at Ohakea in the early 1960s, and later of annual summer pilgrimages to watch Shellsport racers and Mini 7s at Bay Park and winter sorties into forests around Kawerau and Rotorua to see the likes of Russell Brookes, Ari Vatanen and Mike Marshall ply their trade in group 4 Escorts. Together with Murray Taylor and TV producer/director Dave Hedge he has been responsible for helping to build New Zealand’s unique Toyota Racing Series into a globally recognized event brand under category managers Barrie and Louise Thomlinson. Now working for a variety of automotive and mainstream commercial clients, Mark has a unique perspective on recent motor racing history and the future career paths of our best and brightest young racers.

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