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MRX’s Cruze and Tulloch’s Camaro GT3 remind us all about the cruelty of motorsport

21 September 2015

Motorsport is often a cruel and fickle thing. It’s a fact frequently echoed by those who live and breathe the sport, and it’s something that John Wadsworth, Warren Croft, and the guys at Mitchell Race Xtreme (MRX) found out in a big way when they debuted their newly built V8-powered Holden Cruze on September 19 at round one of the ASKO South Island Endurance Series in Teretonga.

You’ll remember that The Motorhood featured the wild Cruze in August. We were impressed — and frankly a little bit scared — by its characteristics, the amount of effort behind its creation, and even just the simple fact that so much effort had been poured into a concept so radically different from the Porsches that have held a monopoly on the South Island Endurance Series silverware.

The weekend would double as both the competitive debut for the Cruze, as well as its first-ever dry testing. But despite the odds being against them, the lads had pieced together a solid weekend, as the Cruze held down fourth position overall at the two-hour mark — Nick Mitchell from MRX describing the car’s performance to us as nothing short of “awesome”.

“We were happy with the pace the car had. On Friday we only completed six laps on a drying track, then had both of our Saturday qualifying sessions on a wet track. The race start was the very first time the car had a set of green rubber on it! Due to the lack of dry running, we just tried to get the car in a set-up window that would work,” said Nick.

“Both John and Warren were extremely happy with the handling of the car, saying it was very easy to drive, and that they weren’t having to push stupidly hard to the times that they were.”

Having started the race in 12th, the Cruze had made its way to fifth by its first pit stop. But just after the second hour ticked over, its race would come to an end. A slight mistake from Warren Croft was enough to cause the car to snap sideways, sending it into the wall and creasing both the right-rear and right-front corners significantly. But the worst damage would lie beneath its skin.

“The damage is very extensive component wise. The chassis has held up very well, with very minimal damage. The diff housing is bent, both right-hand shocks are bent, the lower diff arm on the right-hand side sheared the rod end, the watts link is bent, all the arms on the front right are rubbish, there’s lots of exterior panel damage, and, of course the fire damage, which due to the awesome efforts of the track volunteers was extinguished very quickly,” explained Nick.

“Warren, the driver at that point, walked away without even a bruise — which was great. So the chassis, cage, and Racetech seat and harness have done their job. And due to the quality of the MRX chassis, we will have a good chance of making the next round in 10 days. The only thing against us is time. As I had plenty of time travelling in the Wadsworth Croft Racing team bus back to Christchurch, I was able to make a number of repair lists and get in contact with all my suppliers and get the replacement parts under way.”

There’s something quite painful about poring over a race car for a day, learning about its intricacies, strengths, and weaknesses, only for it to slam into a wall at high speed. But of course, that’s a caveat we’re all familiar with in motorsport — and certainly something Nick and MRX are familiar with, having had to rebuild a few of their beasts over the years. The Holden will now make a quick return to Hamilton, where it will be rebuilt before being shipped back down south for round two.

The Cruze was sadly not the only car to meet an unfortunate end, with the SaReNi Camaro GT3 campaigned by Inky Tulloch and John McIntyre also out thanks to a nasty shunt in the midst of Friday’s wet weather. NZV8 were lucky enough to feature the Camaro in Issue No. 119. Luckily for the squad, a spare Honda Integra Type R was on hand for them to use — netting them a fifth-place finish overall in the three-hour event — enough to keep them in the championship hunt. Not bad from a car pulled out of a barn at the 11th hour.

The Mobil 1 Porsche driven by Scott O’Donnell and Allan Dippie claimed victory in the three-hour event, with the Carters Tyres Ford Falcon V8 Supercar driven by Matt and Dwayne Carter finishing in second. Third was the exhausted pairing of George and Angus McFarlane in their Porsche 996 Cup R, who had lead the race with two laps to go, only to incur a puncture in the race’s final moments. While over in the curtain-raising one-hour event, Hugh Gardiner took the win in his Greenlane Wash Depot Porsche 997.

Round two of the series in Ruapuna is just two short weeks away, those 14 days sure to be extra short for the MRX and Tulloch camps. Hopefully both V8s will be back for another turn at this cruel game.