THE LONGEST DAY

SUPERSTOCKS UNDER THE SUN

 

Written by Pete McNae

 

A message to the small minority who would see speedway driven out of Nelson, if they could have their way. The sport will bend but, with the support of the thousands who went to the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway last night, it won’t be broken.

The Westmeat New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix was the plum on the Nelson Speedway Association calendar but, even before the season started in October, it was going to be tough to deliver the meeting the club wanted to present. Its current resource consent was as leaky as a chocolate teapot and, when mediation with a small group of affected neighbours stalled, the decision was made to cut the meeting from two nights to one. It wasn’t what the club wanted, what the drivers wanted nor what most fans would have chosen — the ability to generate income to cover prizemoney and costs was cut in half and there were fears some competitors might stay away as a response to the challenge of qualifying and running three finals heats in five hours.

Well, the club wins this round on points. The venue was packed, racing was intense, a new champion was found and most left, tired, dusty and thoroughly satisfied with the show. Yes, it was a long day but it was a good day … especially if your family name is Joblin.

This last week in the South Island has been another good one for the Taranaki-based and Palmerston North-registered trio of brothers; Simon, Scott and Adam.  All three qualified for the New Zealand title at Woodford Glen with Simon picking up 3NZ, again all three qualified for the top 26 last night with Scott’s heat three win enough to confirm him as the GP champion for 2018-19. Asher Rees, from another of superstock racing’s royal families, was runner-up while Jordan Dare (yes, it’s the same old names because these guys are that good) won a fun runoff for third when he turned right on Simon Joblin and rolled him 20m past the startline.

There was Nelson interest too, with four local drivers making the finals field, Nick Fowler looking increasingly comfortable in the 66R Hampton Chev to be the best of them by the end of a long, hot day in the dust. Brett Nicholls and Alex Hill continued their good form from the New Zealand champs by again qualifying in the top 26 while Dale McKenzie’s long-awaited return proved that he never loses any of his touch or talent when he takes an extended spell from the sport.

Qualifying was split into two groups — Beef and Chicken, what do you expect when a Richmond meat retailer wins the naming rights, Soy Milk and Nut Juice? The toll of two nights in Christchurch and a Tuesday meeting in Greymouth saw a few entered drivers unable to front but Beef had 24 starters squeezed onto the grid for heat one, won by defending champ Thomas Stanaway, while heat one in Chicken had 23, with Wayne Hemi getting the flag. Recent 1NZ William Humphries was an early casualty, as was popular Nelson rookie Dwayne Whitfield. Another first-season Nelson superstock driver, Phil Krammer, was out on lap one but came back strongly in the non-qualifiers’ races. Round two saw wins for Asher Rees and the new 1NZ Jason Long with Rebecca Barr and Jayden Ward’s nights ended then.

The heat and a couple of weeks without rain had the track surface looking like State Highway 1 (not the Kaikoura part), slick, black and glassy but track staff ripped the surface to pour more water in and, once the sun went down, so did the dust and the finalists had a good surface for the three 15-lappers.

Hemi had pole position for the first finals heat but couldn’t hold off a charging Simon Joblin for the win. Long had a spin that saw three other cars tangled with him while a possible title hopeful, Ethan Rees, retired infield. Hill was the best of the Nelson finishers in fourth.

In round two, Hill’s hopes evaporated early with a spin, with Zach Lawrence left high on the turn two wall as he and Mitch Vickery got knotted again and McKenzie spent some time going backwards down the spectator straight. Flat tyres caught out Vickery and Carl Shearer with Stanaway spinning out of contention to end up in eighth. Asher Rees banked the maximum, narrowly ahead of Rotorua’s Lance Ashton with Ethan Rees in third.

The Rees-Joblin dynasties were expected to sort out the honours in a rugged third heat but that never really eventuated. As Scott Joblin nailed down the win ahead of Dare and Fowler, Jamie Hamilton scrubbed the wall and Adam Joblin got squeezed along the concrete. McKenzie’s run ended with a turn three spin on the last lap.

The days of big superstock wind-offs into the walls are wisely confined now to the teams champs early next month but Nelsonians, who have been happy with half-a-dozen cars across the last couple of seasons, appreciated the efforts of the entry which covered almost all of the tracks that run the class. Three races for the non-qualifiers topped up the fans’ tanks with wins for Hawke’s Bay’s Quinn Ryan (two) and Zane Dykstra, racing out of Palmerston North.

Support racing was among the best Nelson has seen this season but, in the interests of keeping this report to a manageable length, will need to be summarised, Reader’s Digest-style.

The TQ class completed the third and final round of their club championships, welcoming a new member in former sprintcar pedaller Greg Teece, who marked his first night with one of three rolls. Greymouth’s Cameron McKenzie also went over in turn four while the grimmest one saw Alicia Mclauchlan take a heavy tumble in turn one of the feature, requiring an ambulance ride. Darkie Armstrong nipped McKenzie for the feature but the club championship was taken out by Dylan Stone-Cuthbert, who turned a six-point lead over Mclauchlan at the start of the evening into a 20-point buffer. Mclauchlan remained in second, despite the heavy crash, with Dylan Bensemann third overall.

The stockcars put their bumpers about, the field boosted by six Eastern States drivers and Evan Ross from Canterbury. Aaron Gray was called up to drive the Stephen Cooper Holden formerly owned by Tasman Thunder teams racer Craig Tatnell and seemed to be having fun until he was rolled in a meaty turn two hit. Dylan Clarke, Ben Smith and John Mcclelland also got stuck in, with race wins for Hamish Carter and Keightley Teece (two) before Teece also took out the feature.

Visiting English driver Max Hertzog, who has a background in banger racing and ministocks in the UK, had a crack in the Hundy and Fiddy cars in the streetstock field and looked a handy racer, scoring a second in Fiddy (Kieran Davies’) car in his first outing. Nathan Thomas and Ryan Musgrove did most of the s*** stirring, Bradley Evans and Thomas did the winning.

A big field of youth ministocks saw the North Islanders open a few eyes with the contact they are accustomed to. A well-worn path to the tower and a number of relegations were capped by a three-week stand down for a Canterbury competitor. Wins went to Brayden Skurr (Nelson), Stratford’s Cody Ogle, Lucas Lowe out of the Mount and Rotorua’s Mitch Fabish.

Production saloons wrapped up a long meet in the heat with a couple of competitors also getting offside with officials. Blenheim’s David Allan got the win in race one with other flags going to Eddie Frans and Cam Lankshear. The big mover was Steve McNabb, who has quickly come to grips with the class.

Nelson’s next meeting — the sunburn should have peeled by then — is on January 26, when the super saloons return for a round of the Mag and Turbo Super Cup.

 

Photos: Tom Laney, www.imagepress.co.nz