Written by Pete McNae

Ian Burson probably did more laps than any other super saloon driver at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway last night. It was just tough luck for the Vertex Super Cup series leader that most of them came at the wrong end of the meeting.

Persistent rain through the day yesterday got into the clay at the Nelson track and, for a while, a cancellation appeared likely. But, with a big visiting field in town for round six (last night) and seven (tonight) of the Vertex Super Cup, presented by SmithConcept Construction, and the Youth Ministock Mania, it was decided to push on. At 5pm, the track was a slushy pile of clay; thanks to the efforts of the track crew, the super saloons competitors and TQ drivers, there was most of a workable race track ready to use by 7.45pm. Burson was one of the first to get involved with the wheel packing, taking his Toyota ute out there with the tractors, rollers and other four-wheel-drive vehicles that were employed to squeeze out the water. “I thought it was gone when we first got here, there was no way we would be racing,” Burson said later. “They did bloody well to give us a surface that held up all right.”

But Burson wasn’t around to experience much of it in the 30-lap feature. A torn left rear tyre sent him to the infield early in the feature, which was won convincingly by Ray Stewart, racing out of Cromwell. “I wanted to finish that feature and bank a decent pile of points. I guess I’ll put it all out there [tomorrow],” said Burson, who had started off the front row and still holds the series lead. He’ll need a better run tonight in the series finale to claim the title, though. Stewart looked fast as did Richie Taylor, Ricky Boulton, Shane McIntyre and half-a-dozen other hopefuls.

The track was a challenge throughout the meeting with a deep, dark wall of clay off turn two accounting for both Paul Simon (super saloons) and Jasmine Boulton (youth ministocks). They each climbed the pile of deposited clay out near the wall, got turned head-on into the concrete and flipped their lids. But, given what club officials had been faced with earlier in the evening, the race surface was more than passable (even if it limited actual passing).

The super saloons were divided into three groups with heat races won by Stewart, Paul Berg and McIntyre with recent national champion Peter Dickson a casualty in heat three when he was hoovered into the wall on turn three, then collected by the following Berg. Another casualty was the traditional pole shuffle, scrapped as the meeting ran on due to the later start. It should return tonight when racing starts at 6pm, preferably under sunnier skies although the big fuel-injected V8s still magically turned yesterday’s rain into dust. Race fans would be wise to have a pair of sunnies in the kit bag.

The supers’ little cousins, production saloons, ran the final round of their club championship over three heats with relegations and an exclusion playing a part in the outcome and a first-season driver having the most successful night of his debut season. Kaylim McNabb took heat one when the track was still oozing, ran fifth in the second race, won by Tony Diedrichs and banked sixth place in the Jarod Fisher-dominated heat three. When Jared Blanchet was excluded and Eddie Frans relegated for contact during and after the third heat, McNabb’s tally of 51 points saw him win the round from Joseph Sutton but overall points across nine heats and three meetings resulted in Fisher being crowned the club champion for 2017-18, with Frans second and McNabb third overall. Fisher has come over from karting and races with a poise and control that some of his classmates might consider copying.

After the highs of the recent TQ midget national champs, the field was well down in numbers last night, crashes, blow ups and busted budgets slashing the starters to seven. Morgan Frost, Shane Robertson and Alicia Mclauchlan won heat races with Frost really having to work hard to head off Dylan Bensemann in the feature. Bensemann’s strong effort was mirrored by Mark Bezett, who also gave a good account of himself last night.

There was little doubt who was going to bank the stirrer’s cheque in the stockcar class. Once Levi Collier came out of the pits for heat three with the wing removed from his car, his intentions were clear. As it turned out, Collier simply needed to make a nuisance of himself around the Blenheim visitors to win the prize. Michael Paynter and Keightley Teece were race winners, Teece also attempting some blocking but the class highlight was the performance of two recent graduates from the youth ministock ranks. Hamish Carter has barely got his feet wet (everyone got their feet wet last night) in his stockcar but tussled with Anui Bolton before claiming his first career win and Baiden Mailman-Byrman was flying a rookie flag after taking time out from powerboat racing with his dad, yet still managed a third on his first night in the class.

Ahh, youth ministocks. Cast into the spotlight for the Nelson Marlborough Waste Ministock Mania they had a pre-meeting meeting. Heads were nodded. Agreements were reached. Ribbons were awarded. And still there were no official points available late on night one because a small handful of drivers simply cannot get the message that it is a training class where impeding other drivers or nudging them off line deliberately is not in the rules. The innocent heavily outweigh the offenders but a steady stream of teenagers to the referee’s box after the meeting suggests the message still hasn’t penetrated far enough. They may get a chance to redeem themselves from 6pm today when the second set of round robin heat races is staged and champions are found in the experienced and rookie divisions — but patience is wearing thin.

Tonight will also feature the Fifeshire Forklifts South Island superstock championships featuring a field of 17 starters with the loss of Ben Taylor, Jacob Brownlees and Andrew Good, round seven (the last one) in the Vertex Super Cup and support racing from stockcars and TQs.

Photos by Tom Laney, www.