By Pete McNae

No one would begrudge Jeremy Webb a day off. He’s surely earned one.

The new national three-quarter midget champion, winning the 65th running of the title just before the rain arrived at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway tonight, wasn’t content with qualifying at the head of the 24-car field, he also won a six-lap dash to snare a front row start in the winner-takes-all 30-lap A Main, then won that to emulate the feats of dad, Dick, who was 1NZ in the class twice. Oh, and Cantabrian Jeremy raced three midget heats and a 20-lap feature for third in the South Island championship as well.

On a couple of occasions, he jumped out of one race car into the other, leaving one on the infield for crew to retrieve as he was strapped into the second. As Webb was winding up his on-track interview as the new 1NZ, rain which had been forecast to play havoc with finals night began to fall for real, too late to do anything but wash off a layer of clay dust. Clearly, Nelson likes Jeremy Webb – and Jeremy Webb likes Nelson.

The Walkers Engineering TQ title might sound a little like a Webb benefit but it was never easy, right down to the final flag and beyond. Having put in the mahi to earn that front row start, Webb dropped behind Ryan Barry (Auckland) and chased him for 12 laps before slipping past for the lead on the 13th.  He got as much as 30-40m clear then found lapped traffic hard to pick his way past, allowing another Aucklander, Ryan Baker, to get right on his tail tank. Just as it appeared Baker could nip past; the 30 laps were up, and the flag fell. Webb eased off, Baker went by and was later dismayed to learn that the pass had come post-chequer, rather than under the white flag, as he had thought. Regardless, it was a strong chase from Baker and a well-deserved 2NZ with recent national midget champion Peter Hunnibell timing his run to the line perfectly as he went around Barry for third and another national low-number.

Remarkably, especially considering Friday’s qualifying carnage, the whole field of 24 finalists went flag to flag without so much as a spin or mechanical fault, meaning drivers were hard at work for 30 constant laps. Duane Todd relinquished his 3NZ with a car that was starting to struggle badly while Kyle Glover, another with real prospects before the meeting, battled home for 10th, one spot behind the first of the Nelson qualifiers, Alicia Mclauchlan, who had a magic run for ninth overall.

Earlier, drivers had raced a C Main for those who’d had real issues on Friday with Ben Morgan (rollover), Tyler Warnock (broken gearbox), Aaron Humble (blown motor) and Christiaan Fish (rollover) making the top four to advance to the B Main. With another four qualifiers coming from that 12-lapper, Nelson stood up with Morgan Frost leading in Dylan Stone-Cuthbert and Luke Dilworth as Greymouth’s Cameron McKenzie secured the final grid spot for the A Main.

Webb won pole position in a six-lap dash for the eight leading cars and went on to take all the marbles, great reward for an immense weekend at the wheel.

“We probably shouldn’t have done it [run both the TQ and the midget at the same meeting] but it turned out well, no complaints,” Webb said.

The champion admitted he thought he had blown the final when Barry went by on lap one but “I stuck with the plan, the car came on, my driving came on and here we are”, adding Nelson had staged another “awesome event”, following on from successful superstock, stockcar, streetstock and midget national title meetings in recent seasons. The track was perfect, organisation polished and communication clear and accurate, making it even harder to accept that the Nelson club is not scheduled to hold another national championship in ANY class until after the 2020-21 season, at least.

Webb’s other hat tonight saw him in a 10-car field for the Jacks Tyres and Performance South Island Midget Championship. Recent racing against the best the country can field at Western Springs meant he had a fair shot at that one too, but it turned out that the only person who could beat seven-times champion Dave Kerr was Dave Kerr. He smoked the field in all three heats but was relegated two places in one after some vigorous first-lap lane clearing, when he probably would have been through cleanly by the end of the straight anyway. That’s not Kerr’s style though and he hung his 99C Aggressor out on the wall to dominate the heats and feature. Tom Lumsden was a clear second with Webb rattling home late to get past Glen Durie. Earlier, Shane Clarke had a violent turn three roll after being fed a wheel by Gavin Wilkie and Scott Millar also tipped up, but all 10 cars were mobile for the feature.

The four available Tigers team superstocks turned out for the closed club champs in their team kit to thank the sponsors who helped get them to Palmerston North last weekend. Despite it being a closed event, Canterbury’s Nick Selfe and Andrew Good took out club memberships to join the field, Selfe working his way to a runoff for second overall. Clear winner was Alex Hill, maintaining good pace through three heats and surviving a hit from Ben Taylor that could have spoiled his title run. Dale McKenzie attempted a block in the third heat that ended both his own race and that of Brett Nicholls with Ant McKenzie also trying to get involved. Ant ended up in the runoff for second behind Hill and, after Selfe got a slight edge at the start, McKenzie got past and dodged a block for second.

Sidecar racing was back to four local bikes plus Knuckle Hill’s Blenheim-registered combo and became a race for the minor money as Adie Drake and Kieran Satherley recorded a three-heat sweep. Shaun Solly, with Roger Delany on the chair, and Brent Steer-Kyle Ball were at the front of the chasers.

Production saloons backed up from Friday with Joseph Sutton fronting after missing the first night to provide a win and the lion’s share of the entertainment. He stayed high and wide to come from a long way back to chase home Cam Lankshear in race one, won the second, then had some fun pursuing race winner Jarod Fisher in the third. The class had been sent out to open the meeting 10 minutes early as the threat of rain kept everyone on edge. The programme was raced through quickly and all was done and dusted as those first drops fell. Nailed it, Nelson.

Racing resumes with another two-night meeting on March 2-3. The Friday will feature the Vertex Cup for super saloons and ministock mania with Saturday’s programme seeing more Vertex Cup action, alongside the South Island superstock championship.

Race images, Tom Laney,