Sloan Cox is going all out to defend his Ashley Forest Rallysprint title over the weekend of 22 and 23 September.
The Ratec Motorsport Club-run event has gained a mighty following over the years and this year’s battle between Cox as the 2017 winner, Kiwi WRC driver Hayden Paddon and Scottish rally star Alister McRae is set to be one for the record books.
“My goals are simple – to win,” says Cox as he finalises preparation of the car dubbed the Hillclimb Special Evo 8 in which he won the 1.7km gravel rallysprint last year.
“Hayden and Alistair are two big competitors who are coming to try and take the trophy, but we know we can bet them – it’s our hill!” Cox says. “We’ve got the car pretty sorted and will be well placed to win.”
As well as winning the event last year, Cox created his own slice of Ashley Forest history in 2016 when he broke the record three times in one weekend. Ultimately he couldn’t take the win that year due to mechanical issues on the final run.
Cox currently holds the course record of 54.96 seconds, which he set on his penultimate run last year.
“The record is going to get beaten again, for sure. The weather is looking perfect, so everyone’s going to be pushing harder.
“I can’t wait for the battle. I want one of them to beat the record and then I’m going to beat it again. They’re both big international stars – they’ve come to knock me off the top spot and it will be a great battle. But I’m going there to win.”
Cox has also raced against McRae on gravel at the 2015 revamped edition of Race to the Sky. “It was only our second-ever gravel event in that car, so we were still getting to know the car. I’ve also raced against him all four years at Leadfoot on tarmac, coming second to him the last two years. If we all get to the top four, it’s going to be awesome, but these cars are finely-tuned so let’s hope they will all be reliable for an epic battle.”
There’s a lot riding on Cox’s abilities as a mechanic as well as a driver, because he does the bulk of the work on the car himself. Currently weighing about 1000kg and putting out just over 500kW at the wheels, the spaceframe and aluminium shell Hillclimb Special Evo 8 was originally built for Race to the Sky and similar events where there are no regulations on vehicle power or weight.
Running in the open 4WD class, Cox says: “This year we haven’t played around with the power too much – our tuning specialist Dave from Dtech is coming with us this year to help finetune power to the hill. We know it’s about getting the power right through the gears.”
Preparation includes a full rebuild of the driveline components and moving the radiator to the back of the car to improve the weight balance. Cox appreciates the support and advice he receives from people like Dave Heerdegen at Dtech and Myles Herbert at Driveline Automotive. “Big thanks to Dave and Myles for helping us get ready to defend our Ashley Forest title.”
The Ashley Forest is located north of Rangiora in North Canterbury. The event sees all entrants do up to four qualifying runs, time permitting, on Saturday, and one qualifying run on Sunday morning before the elimination runs for top 32 commence. These narrow down into runs for the top 16, eight, four and then the final two fastest competitors. A cash bonus of $1000 is also awarded to the competitor, if any, who holds the new course record by the end of the weekend. The Ashley Forest Rallysprint trophy will be presented to the overall winner, and the Ashley Forest 2WD trophy will be awarded to the fastest 2WD competitor.
Cox’s 2018 Ashley Forest title campaign is supported by Taslo Engineering, AJ’s Emporium, Driveline Automotive, Signedge, Teng Tools and SI Lodec. Follow the news and action on Facebook: Sloan Cox Motorsport Ltd
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications