Having already partnered with Ross Stone Racing and Caltex Australia to compete in the ECB SuperUtes Series, the team at Isuzu recently invited CarAdvice to its take on a drive day event.
Hosted at Brisbane’s Norwell Motorplex, the day combined a mix of off-roading, motorkhana, two-wheel driving, hot laps in the Stone Brothers' SuperUte and the world’s steepest 4WD ramp, the 'Iron Summit'.
Many of you will be aware of Isuzu's I-Venture Club, where current owners come together as the brand demonstrates how to get the most from their new off-roader in some of Australia’s most iconic 4WD destinations.
But for those who don’t own an Isuzu, there’s been little by way of brand-led engagement to showcase the brand's unique versatility. Now, following its recent partnership with Stone Brothers Racing, Isuzu has built on drive-day concepts and mixed it with its traditional off-road-led antics.
With that in mind, we started the day where any good Isuzu drive day should – the off-road obstacle course. Armed with a fleet of D-Max utes and MU-X SUVs, we were led to an almost-hidden course located on the outer edges of the track.
The off-road track, short as it was, featured numerous challenges: from hill climbs and bog holes to water crossings. As you’d expect of the workhorses, the Isuzus negotiated each challenge with aplomb, the only real element of risk provided by the novices behind the wheel.
From there we were ushered along to the far side of the course to be welcomed by Team D-Max.
For the uninitiated, Team D-Max is Australia’s longest-running and most famous precision driving team. It’s here where we bring a bit of competition to the day, navigating a pre-prepared motorkhana circuit. One warm-up lap and then straight into competition with three timed laps, the winner to be announced end of the day (I won’t reveal my placing just yet!).
From here it was off to the reason we’re at a track in the first place: hot laps in the Caltex Delo Racing SuperUte powered by Isuzu's 3.0-litre turbo diesel.
In its second year of competition, the SuperUte series is based on production models, upgraded with race kit that looks to increase safety and performance while ensuring parity across all models.
Production-based engines now produce a whopping 253kW of power and 677Nm of torque. Compare that to the standard production D-Max's outputs of 130kW and 430Nm and it's hard not to be impressed by the racing SuperUte.
To ensure parity across all brands in the SuperUtes Series, the category closely monitors performance across all cars using a MoTec ECU. You can find out the full specs for the car and its competitors here.
Our race-bred pilot for the hot laps is New Zealand’s Tom Alexander, the current SuperUtes series points leader. Kitted out in full race gear, I was shoehorned into the car (no mean feat) and away we went.
The first thing I noticed, was just how much the Isuzu remained stock, with anything performance-based bolted on top. It truly is a production-based ute. Tom is a master of his craft and made the three-lap experience one to remember.
The speed of the Isuzu was truly amazing and the sound, albeit alien to me – definitely got the heart racing. If the aim from Isuzu was to push its performance credentials, then tick!
In between hot laps, we were back with Team D-Max, either off to conquer the famous 'Iron Summit' or for a spot of two-wheeled driving. If you've ever been to a Royal Agricultural show, then you’ll have seen these stunts time and time again, stunts that underline the Isuzu's impressive capabilities and reliability.
Team D-Max bangs, bashes and barges these utes and SUVs with little to no care to themselves or the vehicle, yet each and every time the vehicles respond with more vigour.
A spot of lunch and we’re back grouped together for the all-important announcement of the winner of the motorkhana.
Unfortunately, nothing more than mid-table mediocrity for yours truly, however this trial concept for Isuzu was thoroughly enjoyable, We hope to see Isuzu continue with the concept as it strives to showcase more of what the brand is capable of.