A ROUGH NIGHT FOR THE N
CANTERBURY COMES TO TOWN
Written by Pete McNae
It began so promisingly with Nelson drivers handing out a beating. Before the night was over at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway though, they were beaten — and a little beaten up. Four titles were decided last night, all four were taken out of town while one of Nelson’s most promising superstock drivers got a ride in the ambulance, suffering back and leg pain. So, depending on your perspective, it was either a pretty good night of speedway under overdue and welcome full sun, or it was a Canterbury down trou. Probably both.
From a purely one-eyed Nelson viewpoint, the highlight was the stockcar teams race, event three on the programme. A couple of hours before the meeting, designated hit man Levi Collier withdrew from the Dean’s Truck Services Tasman Thunder when a rush to get power steering parts for his Higgins-Holden came up short. That meant teenager Hamish Carter, who was the intended reserve in the race against the Greymouth Grizzlies, was instead drafted into the starting lineup alongside captain Keightley Teece and experienced Thunder drivers John Everett and Dylan Clarke. There was another plot twist on lap one when Teece’s car broke an axle and he coasted to a stop, leaving Everett and Carter running while Clarke blocked the four Greymouth cars. One by one, they were picked off; Dave Houston Jnr, Dylan Robb and Josh Neilson all failing to go the full 10 laps. Veteran Tony Stanton was still mobile in second at the flag fall but was a full 15sec behind race winner Everett, with all three Thunder drivers putting in well timed blocks and working their way through the Grizzlies’ cars.
The teams race was the end of the evening for a couple of cars but there were still 26 on the grid for heat one of the Nelson open club championships for stockcars. They came and they conquered with Nelson shut out of the podium after three heats. Even harder to digest was the fact that the driver who shaped the outcome was a past Nelson club member, lives in Nelson, works in Nelson, is the son of a former Nelson Speedway Association president … but races with a C on his car. Troy Currie would be one of the premier hitters in stockcar racing this side of the strait, his car is fast enough to catch rivals and, when he does, Currie can drop the hammer like few others.
So, while Teece won the first heat in style, race two and three were Harley Robb walkovers with Currie always looming in support. That saw Robb tally 76 points from two wins and a third, six clear of Blenheim’s Scott Alexander with another Robb sibling, Dylan, running 191GM in third. Fourth and impressing with three strong heats was Morgan Dumelow, first of the Nelson drivers home despite her delayed start to the season while Teece was a target in the second and third heats but still managed fifth overall. Hit of the night came from Currie on Jared Prestidge, who had been running well in the top four but got smoked on the turn two wall and wasn’t sighted again. Shane Boote, filling the seat in the 93N Ben Smith car, looked to have taken a win in race three but the Canterbury driver is on the wrong side with both officials and fellow racers these days and was excluded from the results for some action after the flag.
Moving right along …. the superstocks had six local cars hosting five from Woodford Glen although Trevor Lineham did one race in his car before breaking his wrist and handing the drive to Ian Clayworth for the other two heats, while Shane Harwood went the other way and raced two before Nick Fowler took the wheel for the third. Didn’t matter — Asher Rees won three from three in a car that runs like it has been launched from a catapult. Harwood, Brett Nicholls and Brad Neiman chased hard — even led for a while — but Rees won swept through the field to secure the open club title from Nicholls, seven points back, with Alex Hill in third. Neiman got away well in heat three and was one corner from home but Rees made up a lot of ground, caught the Neiman car siderail to siderail and flicked him hard into the turn three wall. While Neiman was able to convince the track crew not to cut the cage off his car, he left the venue suffering from lower back and leg pain which turned out to be two breaks in his back and two more in his pelvis. It was a typical Rees family hit; arrive fast, connect flush and peel off, leaving the driver on the other end of the impact with no options but to buckle up and ride it out. Worth noting, Fowler’s 16.06s fastest lap against Rees’ 15.91 — not too shabby in the first race for a driver who has not run a superstock for a handful of summers.
Two trophies down, two to go and Matt Sherlock nabbed another for Canterbury when he had a flag-to-flag win in the Trackman Trophy for production saloons. The class ran two heats for grid positions in the 15-lapper with Cantabrian Dave Filius home first in heat one while Blenheim’s Dave Allan won heat two. Sherlock, with a second and a fifth, had a good grid spot for the feature and was gone on the green, winning by more than 3sec from Filius. Pam Nixon showed good pace in her new car for third in heat two and a fine third in the feature while Sam Martin from Blenheim was fun to watch, hurling the big rear-wheel drive Falcon around a track that is not suited to a production saloon with a big bum. There was some significant panel damage done in the early heats — proddie drivers are a panelbeater’s best friend.
There was also a bit of bad behaviour among the youth ministocks — in fact it was surprising to see just three relegations across four races when there seemed to be a lot of contact, much of it aimed at Ben Hern in car 179C from Christchurch. Hern was quick, though, and came away with a win, a second, a third and a fourth. Raiden Hearne was even quicker, notching up a win, a second and two thirds, one of those thirds a relegation after he had finished further forward. And Riley Eathorne was also among the frontrunners, with two wins, a second and a sixth (relegation). Callum Russ was going well until a big slap on the wall ripped off the front shock and there were handy efforts from Miah Bishop, Connor Blackbourn and Blake Hearne.
That leaves one class on the club’s contact-heavy programme; the IHC Charity Shop South Island Streetstock Championship, the meeting feature. Apparently the South Island stops at Templeton as none of the rough and ready racers from Dunedin or Invercargill made the trip but there were still 30 cars in the pits, dominated by Nelson and Canterbury entries with a smattering from Greymouth and Blenheim. The championship was run over four qualifying heats (two groups with a marble draw first heat and a reverse grid second heat) with 26 cars going through to the three-heat finals. Group A heat winners were Ryan Musgrove (Nelson) and Canterbury’s Cory Schumacher while the Group B winners were former Nelson driver Paul Leslie and another Cantabrian Tom McSherry. Major qualifying casualties were Blenheim’s Daniel Honey and Brad Kahui (Greymouth), in fact the final field had one qualifier from each of those clubs with the rest coming from Woodford Glen and Nelson.
As always, heat one was a bit of a sorting out process, Sydney Briggs and Thomas McLeod made heavy contact and KC Rose put a solid shot on Luke Foster, the Canterbury car becoming the only DNF in heat one. Leslie banked maximum points, Nelson’s Rob Skurr was second with another Glen entrant, Hamish MacGregor, third and Musgrove back in fifth, three spots ahead of former 1NZ Dave McSherry.
Heat two was a little more intense. A third McSherry, Rob, took the win from Dan McNally and Nelson’s Kyle (Hundy) Davies with Foster and Nelson’s Shannon Marr perched on the wall in front of the McCall corporate complex when Marr went in Shandoggy-style and rode the Canterbury car but ended up perched at a 45 degree angle to the track. Tom McSherry stymied Musgrove’s championship chances after the Nelson driver had aimed up on Don Garthley, then McSherry took on Steve Thomas. The younger Davies brother, Kieran (Fiddy) had a rugged heat two. Leslie, with a first and a fifth, was two points clear of McNally going into the decider with Skurr the best of the locals in fourth.
And despite a full-on final heat, Leslie stayed clean and composed, bringing his car home in second with barely a scratch to claim the South Island title. Two Nelson cars were gone before lap one ended when Neville Soper and KC Rose launched into the turn two wall, the unfortunate Foster copped his third DNF, Marr tried to take out Schumacher — but the end result was Leslie on 73 points and a deserving champion, McNally still in second with 69 while Dave McSherry climbed two spots with his heat win to be third overall. Skurr, in his return to racing this season, was unlucky to miss by a point as Nelson’s best finisher as both Matt Watson and Hundy also made it into the top 10. Nathan Thomas, one of the more aggressive of the N drivers, was 11th.
So there you go … teams race, Nelson, but streetstocks, superstocks, stockcars and production saloons all wins for Canterbury. The sooner they introduce border control and passports at the Lewis Pass, the better.
Nelson’s next meeting is on December 29 when the super saloons return for a night which will see club championships decided. The Nelson Speedway Association wishes competitors, crews, sponsors and patrons a safe and happy holiday season.
Photos, Tom Laney and Devon Stove, www.imagepress.co.nz