It was a pretty early start for us on Saturday as Maramarua is nearly a 2hr drive from home, and we wanted to get there in time to look for a good shooting spot. Dylan and I set off just after 06.00. The weather was looking good considering how bad it had been a day or two before.
As we went over the Kaimai Ranges, we dropped down the other side into thick fog. I was hoping it would clear as the sun came up. Along the way we came across a truck and trailer which (we assume) in the fog didn’t see the Tahuna Roundabout and whilst trying to brake and get around it went off the road. It’s cab was in the paddock some 4 or 5 ft below and the rest of the trailer was still up on the road and looked like it was blocking it. Visibility was extremely poor! A short way up the road it was like driving out of a tunnel – all of a sudden we were out of the fog and in glorious sunshine.
Alex Kelsey pulled out behind us, which was good as I didn’t really know where to go, so once we were close to the event we pulled over and let them pass. Turns out they didn’t really know either and were hoping to follow us!
The event was looking well supported with approximately 40 cars there. We stopped to chat to a few friends in the service area until we were allowed into the stage to find our spot. We parked up well off the road and walked a little further into the stage around a left hander. The inside of the bend was maybe 4-5 metres tall. I was thinking the top might be a good place to stand and shoot. As I looked up to check it out, we had been beaten to the spot already. Steve (Russell) and Tracy were already there. (Good to see you both again)
After a couple of runs we decided to try another spot. It didn’t work out so well, so we returned to the original location, only this time we moved the car closer. Glad we went back as it was a good place to watch from. There was some enthusiastic driving that’s for sure. Scott Ogle and Rob Connell were really throwing their cars into the corners displaying lots of sideways action.
The front runners all looked real quick. Carl Davies appeared to be pushing harder each time past. I haven’t seen the times yet to know if this was the case, but he was definitely trying. Phil Broadbent was another car that always looked like he was pushing really hard, using every inch of the road in places, which I can vouch for! Some used a little bit more!
After the morning runs there was a 3hr break before the night running was due to start, so we headed back down to the service area. Dylan was pretty pleased to see Jonesy’s boy Bryn was there, and before long they were climbing trees and having a ball (gave me a break!) During this time they had managed to talk someone (Mal?) into letting them sit in Alex Kelsey’s car. I walked down to see what they were up to, and found the boys both sat in the car looking pleased as punch. I leaned in and said to Dylan that it wasn’t quite as good as my Mk2 Escort, at which point he replied “At least this one goes!” Ouch! Totally owned by my 11yr old boy. Thanks heaps to Alex Kelsey, Mal Peden and Hamish Kelsey for making the boys (and me) so welcome during the break.
I was surprised to see how many people left during this break. From a field of approx. 40 cars, I think there was only 12 or 14 left to run the night stages. I couldn’t work out why you would tow your car all the way to the forest and leave before doing the night stages. I know there’s an expense in adding lights, but you don’t have to spend huge dollars. Running at night is not something you can do very often, so I would have thought more people would have had a go. If nothing else, it would be to have some fun, not worry about your time, and support a club event.
Once 18.00 arrived I headed back into the stage with Dylan and Bryn this time. We went back to our spot, and luckily there was still enough light to see. I climbed up the bank and checked a few settings and waited, and waited. It seemed a very long time before the first car.
By this time it was completely dark and I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t even see my feet to know how close the edge was! I think Carl Davies was the first person through. I say think as this was the first ever time I had tried night motorsport photography and I messed up the focusing so bad I couldn’t see what car went by – sorry Carl. I started to get the hang of it and got some images I’m pleased with.
Most drivers seemed to be going pretty quick despite it being extremely dark. There was one excursion off the road that happened right below me, but they were able to recover and carry on. Unfortunately Mike Wheatley had a moment which he didn’t recover from and left his car broadside across the road stuck in a pretty rough rut.
I’m guessing this was a bit of a surprise for the next car along (Alex Kelsey I believe) who had very little room to make it past and would have probably been carrying a bit of speed too. We came across the car after the runs were complete, and think Mike’s pretty lucky not to have been hit by someone else, as his car really was in a tough place. Tracy managed to capture Lance Williams having ‘a moment’ at this very corner earlier in the day which can be seen here.
Dylan and I had a great day out and would like to thank all the organisers and volunteers who gave their time so this event could take place, especially as this was such a long day for you all.