The New Zealand EP Off-Road National Champs are done and dusted for another year. Since the completion of the event over Easter weekend it has been joked over social media that it appeared you had to have a name starting with S to have a chance at the titles. Over 9 classes throughout the event they were all seen taken home by 3 different people. Shane Van Gisbergen took home 4 of the 9 titles, Shane O’Connor with 3 and Scott Kendall walking away with 2. It didn’t all come easily though, there were plenty of names in contention at this year’s event.
First we’ll cover 1/8th Buggy. After the first round of finals Shane Van Gisbergen was a lap up on the 1/8th EP Buggy field with a convincing win with Andrew Webber taking out 2nd and Shane O’Connor in 3rd. The second round of finals sore no change in the top three spots and with two 1st place finishes under his belt, Shane Van Gisbergen had already won the title. The third Final saw Van Gisbergen sitting out which had O’Connor and Webber fighting for the points to secure their final positions. Andrew Webber kept it together and got the win with a two second lead over O’Connor securing him an Overall 2nd Place and Shane O’Connor an overall 3rd.
1/8th EP Truggy saw Shane O’Connor only one second behind Van Gisbergen’s 1st place finish making for a very interesting second round of finals. But we didn’t see any changes after the second race with Shane Van Gisbergen in 1st and Shane O’Connor three seconds behind in 2nd and once again Van Gisbergen was taking home the title after just two rounds. In the Final round Van Gisbergen decided to race and this time Shane O’Connor came out of it with a 1 lap lead on the rest of the field including Van Gisbergen. Unfortunately for O’Connor the title had already been claimed but this did secure him the 2nd place overall. Shane Mangu came in for a podium 3rd place finish with one 3rd and two 5ths.
The first round of 2WD Modified Buggy sore Shane O’Connor 2 seconds quicker than second place Shane Van Gisbergen which was a change from the two 1/8th scale classes. Andrew Webber secured a 3rd place finish in the first race. In the second round Shane Van Gisbergen fought back to put him and Shane O’Connor on an even playing field. Mark Bidlake made himself known coming from a 4th place finish in the first race doing one better with a 3rd place finish in the second, not sure what happened to Andrew Webber who finished the second race with 6th place finish leaving the podium wide open. The third round sore the title go to Shane Van Gisbergen with a convincing one lap lead over 2nd Place Shane O’Connor. Neither Webber nor Bidlake were seen in the 3rd place spot in the final race, but instead coming from 7th place in both the first and second rounds we saw Luke Duthie taking the 3rd place finish. So after three finals Van Gisbergen took 1st, Shane O’Connor 2nd and Mark Bidlake managed 3rd place on equal points with Andrew Webber bring it down to all 3 rounds being counted, this had them still on the same points so it came down to qualifying.
4WD Modified Buggy had Andrew Webber winning the first round of finals with Luke Duthie only one second behind in 2nd and Shane O’Connor in 3rd. In the second round Shane O’Connor flew to a 1st place finish showing Andrew Webber and Luke Duthie what he is made of. Webber came in second , Mark Bidlake taking 3rd. We also saw Luke go from a 2nd place finish in the first race, to an 8th place finish in the second. The third round was where it would be decided. Shane O’Connor once again pulled out a stunner and took the win seeing the title go his way. Mark Bidlake was on form claiming 2nd and Luke Duthie had a comeback in 3rd; something had Andrew Webber not finishing the third round putting him in 9th for that race. So after three rounds we have Shane O’Connor in 1st, Andrew Webber held onto 2nd and Mark Bidlake took 3rd.
2WD Modified Truck sore Shane O’Connor take out the first round with Anton Huber’s two seconds behind in 2nd with Gavin Davidson in 3rd. After the second race we saw Shane O’Connor secure the title with a second victory and Anton Huber’s in 2nd to try and secure a second place podium which was all dependant on the third round, race two sore Nick Moore in 3rd. The third round saw Shane O’Connor sit out the Final round with Anton Huber’s taking the win securing 2nd overall, with Nick Moore taking 2nd securing 3rd overall.
In 4WD Short Course also saw Shane O’Connor securing the title after just two rounds and Anton Huber’s once again with two 2nds after the first two rounds fighting for that podium finish. In the first round we saw Chris black come away with a 3rd place finish. The second race saw Ben Hansen take the 3rd with Chris Black dropping down to 4th place in that race. The third round sore Shane O’Connor sitting out and once again Anton Huber’s coming in for the win. Alec Webber and Matt Whitmarsh showed their faces in 2nd and 3rd with Chris black once again in 4th. In the end Shane O’Connor took 1st, Anton Huber’s took 2nd and Chris Black drove himself into an overall 3rd place finish. In 2wd short course Shane Van Gisbergen won the first race with a three second lead over Shane O’Connor in 2nd and with Mitchel Voice taking 3rd.
2WD Short Course saw the two Shanes both fighting for the number one spot. Shane Van Gisbergen might have won the first race but Shane O’Connor came fighting back to win the second with Mitch Voice once again in 3rd, this title was going to come down to the third round. In the end it was Shane Van Gisbergen claiming his 4th title of the weekend with Shane O’Connor taking 2nd Overall and Mitchel Voice showing promise in 3rd after just his first National Champs Mitchel Voice will be one to watch in the future.
4WD Stock didn’t start out too good for Top Qualifier Scott Kendall who thought his weekend was over after a tussle with a marshal’s foot and no spare anywhere at the event. Luckily after a 4 hour rounds trip and a CNC Machine, Slavich Designs came to the rescue. The finals began and Scott took the first round with a very convincing 10 second lead on 2nd Ben Hansen, with 3rd place going to Chris Black. The second race sore Scott Kendall come away with the title with a convincing 1 lap lead on the field with Gavin Dawson in 2nd and Chris Black’s son Jacob Black knocking his dad from the podium with a 3rd place finish. The third round would now be used to determine the rest of the placings. Scott chose to race the third round keeping everyone honest which he once again dominated, Chris Black followed in 2nd and Gavin Davidson in 3rd. After 3 Rounds Scott took 1st, Chris Black 2nd and Gavin Dawson 3rd.
2WD Stock saw more bad luck for Scott Kendall who was TQ until his Transmitter died after the first corner of the final qualifier; this final qualifier saw Matt Whitmarsh take TQ and no races left for Scott to fight back. Scott though he was out for the weekend as he did not come with a backup transmitter, but after realising it was just the batteries he was back in it. Finals arrived and in the first round Kendall held a 7 second lead over Matt Whitmarsh who got 2nd with Ben Hansen in 3rd. The second round went much the same seeing Scott Kendall take home his second title for the weekend but that round didn’t come without its issues when it was revealed the computer didn’t count. The round was not re-run but instead the competitor’s positions were based of manual counting and the honesty and integrity of the competitors who knew where they had come. But with the controversy of the second round some people were not convinced. This saw Scott Kendall going into the third round to prove he deserved the title and came away with another convincing first place with Matt Whitmarsh in 2nd and Richard Price in 3rd. After three rounds Scott Kendall took the overall 1st, Matt Whitmarsh 2nd and Ben Hansen 3rd.
All in all the racing was close, the track was awesome and the competitors raced clean and fair. Shane Van Gisbergen has made a real impression in RC car racing in both IC and EP off-road around New Zealand taking 4 titles at this year’s Nationals. Shane O’Connor always comes ready to race and brings his A game every time, taking 3 titles home from these Nationals to add to his fast growing collection. Scott Kendall now has 27 years and 11 titles under his belt after this national champs; but the question is, who will take home the titles next year? Get training New Zealand the racing is getting faster, the competition is getting closer and some of the young guns are starting to come through fighting.