SATURDAY CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH
GIFT HORSES FOR ALICIA
Written by: Pete McNae
Alicia Mclauchlan is counting the sleeps. Luckily for her, it’s almost Saturday and for Alicia and the Jack’s Tyres team, Saturday is sprintcar day.
The young TQ midget pilot has made a hugely positive impression since she stepped over from motocross to speedway. Mentored by the late Glenn Campbell and with strong support from her parents, Karen and Jack, stockcar driving brother Daniel and partner Alex Hill (who runs the 95N superstock), Alicia quickly became a frontrunner in the TQ class, picking up regular podium placings and even qualifying for the New Zealand champs at Western Springs last summer. But, last season, Mclauchlan got a taste of sprintcars. And she liked it.
Saturday sees the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway host the latest round of the Hydraulink War of the Wings, a seven-meeting South Island series that is rapidly becoming a template for other speedway classes. Driven by three or four foundation members, WoW has grown from a wobbly-legged infant in to a slick and well-supported series. The spinoff has been a mushrooming of the class in the South Island, with better than 40 cars in various states of race readiness now on this side of Cook Strait. Sprintcar rounds that might have drawn 10 cars in the past as a something of a freak show on clay, propped up by a couple of modifieds, now need qualifying to whittle down numbers for a feature race. Mclauchlan wants to be a part of that.
“I was struggling to go to sleep last night [Monday] and there’s still four nights to wait. Saturday is going to be amazing,” the 23-year-old accounts clerk said. “I’m nervous but it’s excited-nervous, not scared-nervous.”
Mclauchlan’s sprintcar career amounts to one meeting at Woodford Glen last summer. In the borrowed Kevin Freeman-Kris Gerard 75N, she concentrated on staying clean and tidy. Car owner Freeman said Alicia did everything right. “She kept clean lines, got faster every time she drove and brought the car home in one piece so she’s definitely got the goods.”
A chance to return to the Glen last weekend had to be shelved so Mclauchlan will be learning on the job again this Saturday. The sprintcars hope to run some hot laps from 5.15pm then will go straight in to a very important time trial from 5.30. Every car will have two timed laps with points at stake, starting from 20 for first (to “prevent sandbagging”, Freeman says). He is determined to have cars and drivers geared up to run the full time trial before the official 6pm meeting start. Then, there’s 12-lap heat racing in groups, with 12 cars qualifying for the feature. A B main will see another six cars progress to the 25-lap A main feature with 18 cars and 100 series points for the winner.
Mclauchlan’s goal is to make that 25-lapper. “I’d love to be able to qualify for the feature, at this stage, making that top field of 18 would be exciting but I realise how much I have to learn and I am up against drivers who have been in sprintcars for a few seasons. I will be disappointed if I don’t get to the A main, though … I’m realistic but I also really want to push myself.”
The car she will run on Saturday is Freeman’s spare with a strong engine leased from Edge Parts and Performance in Christchurch. The goal is to purchase a car before next summer and run it alongside the TQ. “We won’t sell the TQ because we can race it in Nelson and the class looks so good here now but there are seven sprintcars in town already and the chance of more coming so maybe our club will think about three or four meetings on our home track, plus six or seven more in the series. Sprintcars really are taking off because they are amazing to race and nowhere near as expensive as some of the other classes.”
There’s quite a step between a 750cc motorcycle engine TQ and a fuel injected 800 horsepower sprintcar. Mclauchlan says the TQ works best with smooth power application, clean lines and momentum. “You hold your foot flat for as long as you can.” In the sprintcar, “there’s more power than you can use, it’s about being brave enough to hit the corner at speed because then the wing puts all that downforce on the track and then you’re on rails … the harder you push, the better the car works. You just have to trust the wing, 100 per cent”.
She hopes to run the two Nelson sprintcar meetings, Saturday’s WoW round and the New Zealand Sprintcar GP over two nights in January. She is full of praise for the class in the South Island. “They’re really supportive, I guess because they are used to racing together and putting on a show for the fans. They all gave me room to race at Woodford Glen and were really nice.”
Mclauchlan’s appearance in the class this season is possible with huge help from Freeman (“Kevin wants people in sprintcars, he’s done so much to get this class to where it is”), Mum and Dad with Jacks Tyres prominent on the 76N, Edge Parts and Performance for the leased engine and MTF for helping make the second car available, along with Alicia’s regular supporters in Port Motueka Marine, Brad’s Smash Repairs and TJ Hoult Engineering.
- A special colour glossy Hydraulink War of the Wings programme will be available for sale on Saturday. At $15, it’s a classy souvenir and profiles the class and several drivers along with explaining Saturday’s format and points/prizemoney awards. It will be available at the souvenir shop and the 75N trailer.
- Mclauchlan will be without one her of her staunchest supporters with Hill travelling to Woodford Glen with the Tigers on Saturday. He will join Jared Gray, Trevor Lineham, Ken Nolan and Luke Ewing in the squad to race the Glen Eagles. Shane Harwood and Brett Nicholls have entered the Manawatu superstock championships.
- This Saturday, when the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway hosts the South Island stockcar championships and round 3 of the Hydraulink War of the Wings for sprintcars, the Nelson region is also home to the Abel Tasman cycle classic. Competitors and spectators need to be aware of cyclists in the vicinity of the speedway, with traffic management in place on Saturday afternoon. The club asks those using the roads near the race way to please be careful around riders and support crew and to anticipate potential delays.