The Auckland champs was held on the weekend of June the 2nd, we had managed to get an amazing mixture of weather with 3 days of solid rain and then sunshine and hot weather for the last 2 days leading up to the event. This gave the track a depth of moisture which lasted and provided amazing grip levels which saw some of the fastest heats on the track in its current configuration.
After some months of working with the XB9 I had settled on a setup which I was becoming very confident with. The only changes I ended up making was raising the front and centre diffs to 7K rather than my usual 5K. I felt as though this configuration would be better with the track being such high grip conditions.
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There were 5 heats for qualifying each being 7 minutes long, I knew that competition was going to be fierce as most of NZ’s top drivers were in attendance, which meant qualifying would be very close! For the first heat I opted to go out with my standard setup using super soft AKA Impact tyres. I managed to get a great start, and kept very consistent. The tyre choice was spot on as I was able to set the fastest lap of the round for buggy by about .5 of a second and a deviation of .812 of a second. This was enough to allow me to TQ for the round.
The second round I was able to keep my consistency however the track was now starting to dry off and I needed to move to a slightly harder compound tyre (ended up with 2nd overall). After having a bit of a rough 3rd round I felt as though the rear of the car was bottoming out just a little over the jumps so I moved the lower shock positions out on the arms slightly.
I knew if I wanted to start off the final in a top 3 position I needed to have a good next round. I got off to a clean start and found the changes I made to have an immediate effect. The rear was much better on landings and I ended up TQ’ing the 4th round with .861 deviation. Needless to say I was very pleased! Round 5 I ended up pushing a little hard which resulted in some of the fastest laps in buggy for the event but consistency was lacking and I ended up 3rd for the round.
Overall for qualifying I TQ’d for buggy and was in 4th place for Truggy. There were still 2 x 45 min finals ahead of me so the night of wrenching began! Finals began on a hot sunny afternoon with a track that had unbelievable amounts of grip. Truggy was up first and I chose to go with the new super soft Evo AKA Impact tires. As the final started I knew something wasn’t right with the engine as it didn’t have the bottom end power I was used to! I found myself trying to carry a lot more corner speed to make the jumps and this ended up causing me to be inconsistent. As the racing was very tight I ended up making the call on the last pit stop in the final to richen the engine a little bit on the bottom end which allowed me to get my consistency back and finish in 3rd place.
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After the engine problems in Truggy I raced off to quickly tune my buggy engine, it was sounding fast and strong and I decided to leave the tuning as is! I was starting off the 1st position so if I got off to a good start I would be in with a chance. We started the race and the car, tyres and engine were dialed! I felt confident and managed to get a good first lap leading the way. The second lap I made a mistake and was immediately overtaken and was sitting in 3rd place. I pushed hard and reclaimed second place sitting about 4 seconds behind the leader. I knew he was pitting at 7.5 mins and I was pitting at 9mins so I had the advantage. I decided not to push and to keep consistent, myself and Craig ended up swapping the lead a number of times.
I came in for my second to last pit stop and it was a quick refuel and as I went to take off my engine flamed out!! Luckily my pit crew were quick to respond but I had lost my 1 pitstop advantage. I started to push hard and managed to come very close to the leader just before my last pitstop. It was a quick fuel and then to my great disappointment the engine flamed out again as I went to take off!! I ended up losing more valuable time even though my crew were again fast to get me started. I ended up in 2nd place 8.3 seconds behind the winner! Whilst I was disappointed about the flame outs it was a fantastic result given the competition level. The XB9’s are really becoming a force to be reckoned with in NZ!
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Final results buggy:
1. Craig Underwood 2. Chris Banham XRAY XB9
3. Alan Looi
4. Neil White
5. Jeremy MacMahon
6. Jonathan Thompson
7. Basil Weyers
8. Jono Chaplin 9. Shane Adams XRAY XB9
10. Russell Everton
Final results truggy:
1. Craig Underwood
2. Alan Looi 3. Chris Banham XRAY XT8
4. Jonathan Thompson
5. Stephen Bowles
6. Mike Stratford
7. Mark Collins
8. Grant Jenkins
9. Roger van Dorston
10. Paul Collins