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If you’ve always thought you’re pretty nifty behind the wheel, or you fancy yourself as the next Lewis Hamilton, you’d better pay a visit to Off Road NZ.
It’s a great way to test your speed, skill, accuracy and nerve with a range of different driving options set to get your pulse racing and your adrenalin pumping.I started off with some Sprint Car Racing – where I got the chance to race a high performance Sprint car on a concrete circuit. I was told these cars are full-size race cars fitted with roll cages, seat belt harnesses and power to slide. There’s no point being a passenger, as this is all about being in the driving seat.
The race is all done by timing so you get 12 laps to prove your worth behind the wheel. Once I’d got the hang of the car, I got the feel of how it handled corners and how it quickly picked up speed. So it was all about maintaining speed without losing control or spinning out on the corners.
The signal to return to base came all too soon and my time as a wannabe Michael Schumacher was over, but I’d had so much fun. Just a shame I didn’t get to shake a bottle of champers at the end of it!
Next up was the Monster 4x4 Thrill Ride, where I got to sit back and enjoy the 10 minute ride.This was an awesome experience. The vehicle is purpose built with huge tyres, air diff locks and amazing suspension. It also comes equipped with roll cage, seat belt harnesses, and steering at both ends.
Which is just as well when I saw the terrain we would be driving over – old Volkswagen cars, boulders, up banks at incredible angles, down vertical slopes and even into a mine shaft. This was intense!
We climbed and descended near vertical slopes, and what would have been impossible in any normal car was possible in this Monster beast. We even rode along some edges where we tilted right over to one side and I wondered if we were going to make it, as I clung on tight to my harness.
The excited screams coming from the back of the vehicle told me the passengers behind me were having a blast as well. And who can blame them? You never knew what was coming next and it rocked.
After seeing how the pro performed behind the wheel, it was now my turn again. I was given the keys to a 4WD and geared myself for the next challenge of a Bush Safari.I was told I would be driving for 45 minutes on an extreme trail set amongst beautiful native rain forest. Communicating on CB radios to my instructor, he directed me around the course, through a range of challenges which I had to manoeuvre my way through.
It started off fairly straightforward, with a few deep pools to navigate through and then through a tunnel and over a waterfall.
The most challenging obstacle had to be the Luge hill, which was pretty much a steep drop down a bank. To make things a little more interesting, there were two steel runners which I had to line my tyres up with at the top of the hill. My instructor had already poured water down them to make them nice and slippy, just to add to the excitement.I was told just to let my foot slowly off the brake, and pull up sharply on the handbrake, keeping the steering wheel straight the whole way down.
To say I was bricking it was a huge understatement. However you look at it, it just doesn’t seem natural to drive off the edge of a sheer drop. But that’s exactly what I had to do. Or I could chicken out and get my instructor to drive it down for me. But that was not an option. I was going to do this. I’m going to do this. I’m doing this. Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkkeeeeeeeesssss!! Wooo-hooo! I’d done it. Mission accomplished and all that. The feeling of achievement was amazing. Wow! That was SO worth it.
Off Road NZ is 20 minutes drive north of Rotorua, just off State Highway 5. A complimentary shuttle service from Rotorua is available on demand.
It is open daily from 9am until 5pm (except Christmas Day).
Prices are $35 for Sprint Car Racing, $40 for Monster 4x4 Thrill Ride and $85 for 4WD Bush Safari. Combo packages are also available.
Other activities available include clay bird shooting, archery and golf hole-in-one.