By Pete McNae


On his night, when car and driver are in harmony, no one dominates the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway oval like Ian Burson. I’ll put up 10 bucks if you can change my mind.

That $10 was all it cost for adult entry for tonight’s Autobatt Nelson King of the Clay meeting, the Nelson Speedway Association choosing to show goodwill to their loyal fans by halving their gate entry to reflect the lack of a core promotion. Did it work? There was a reasonable crowd, certainly more than there would have been if the club had charged full price, and there were new faces in the terraces — people who might have liked what they saw and will be back in two weeks for the sprintcars and at Easter for superstocks action.

Burson was worth the price of admission alone. Less than a month ago, his season was in tatters. A heavy rollover at the New Zealand Super Saloon Championships at Woodford Glen badly damaged the 21N Hypermac-Chev while Burson was hospitalised for a few worrying days in Christchurch. The final diagnosis was nerve damage affecting his left hand side. He might be back to one hundred per cent in a month, it could take a year. While the Westley brothers and crew mended the car, Burson’s status was less clear.

“I had a decision to make for this meeting,” he said. “There’s still not much feeling in the affected bits on my left side and I’m tired but, if I didn’t get out here tonight, we wouldn’t have bothered dragging the car down to Cromwell (for the Darryl Ainsley memorial meeting) next weekend. I had to get my head into it and then tell the body to follow.”

Burson’s apprehension was unfounded. Although the King of the Clay attracted just five super saloons and Rob Flood’s top-notch saloon, the quality was there to test Burson’s recovery. In heat one, he burst out of midpack and chased Blenheim’s Paddy North for a few laps, exploring an outside line on a perfect track surface, then simply powered past through turns three and four to win going away. In his second heat, starting off the front, Burson vanished at the hint of green and won by 10sec, supposedly setting a lap record, although the time that was posted as the new record was slower than his best lap in heat one. For the third heat, only mechanical failure or a driver brain fart was going to alter the inevitable outcome. Neither happened, Burson holding off a tidy drive from Shane Carey with Flood in third.

The 21N can now be loaded for Cromwell now, knowing that just a little luck — once in a while — is enough when Burson is on his game.

Rodney Thompson’s luck ran out in spectacular fashion in the three-quarter midget class. A decent field of a dozen fronted for heat one, with Greymouth’s Thompson the only out of town entrant. When Morgan Frost had car issues, Jayden Corkill pounced to take heat one with Alicia Hill getting the heat two win. Rather than run aggregate points, the heats set the grid for a feature over 20 laps with Frost’s unlucky heat form leaving him back on row four. That didn’t last long as the MTF-backed Darkness Motorsport TQ dived around the outside line to lead after two laps with Corkill chasing as Hill fended off Thompson. On lap 13 (unlucky for some) it came unglued in the biggest way for the Coaster as his left front wheel rode Hill’s right rear and the car went up and over and up again, coming very close to the top of the catch fence in a roll with a high degree of difficulty. Off the restart, Corkill pounced, skipping past Mike McWhinney’s lapped car, and Frost, to take a lead he held to the flag and the King of the Clay title, with Frost second and Hill third. An earlier casualty was Jason Jones who lost a motor in a ball of flame as he crossed the line in heat two.

Nelson’s production saloon team came home from Renwick with a three-point lead over Eastern States in round one of the Mike Inwood Trophy series, a two-leg five-car teams race. While Dave Allan banked maximum points for the visitors with a win tonight, Nelson were second (Vaughan Cornelius), third through Cam Lankshear and fourth with Fee Frans to take back the trophy. In their King of the Clay series, Eddie Frans and Cornelius were heat winners, Frans romping away from the front row in the feature. Kaylim McNabb held second for a long while until Cornelius, who was strong all meeting, slipped by to take second overall with McNabb third ahead of Pam Nixon and Joseph Sutton. A big turn two prang took out four cars with Sam Martin’s Falcon the most heavily damaged as Lankshear was feeling the after-effects.

A couple of Blenheim drivers spiced up the streetstock field, Anthony Gane showing good speed while Sydney Briggs is more concerned with wreck-creation.  With a few regular drivers handing over the keys to crew, the championship points took on a slightly different aspect overall with KC Rose winning twice in his For Sale Falcon to become the overall champion ahead of Harry Moffat-Schwass in the Muz Motorpsort Falcon (second, second, third) with heat one winner Gane in third. Back in sixth overall was the relatively untested Ray Brand BMW, a successful night for a car that breaks the usual streetstock jelly mould.

With three top cars (19N, 12N and 66N) recently sold out of town and a couple of others including 1NZ Ben Smith racing in Christchurch, the stockcar field was down on numbers and action. There were visiting entries from Blenheim in Tayler Forbes, Gavin Marshall and Melissa Gifford (the latter two have been registered with Greymouth the past two seasons) and a welcome return for Hamish Carter after missing a good chunk of the season. Race winners were Michael Paynter and then two for Keightley Teece, Teece gathering 35 points for the King of the Clay crown. Paynter and Carter were tied on 31 but Carter was awarded second when Paynter, who recovered from a couple of costly heat three spins, had left the venue before the coin toss. Marshall and Gifford made the top five, Dylan Clarke put a shot on Forbes and Zak Baker had a fifth place finish in the third heat, perhaps his best in his quirky flat chassis car after a good duel with Paynter.

With the midgets dropping out late in the week and superstocks and sidecars racing in Christchurch, the last carded class on half-price night was the youth ministocks who reeled in five visiting drivers, from Palmerston North, Wellington and Eastern States with seven young women among 17 starters on the grid for heat one. The lads weren’t letting go of the silverware though with race wins for Callum Russ, Cambell McManaway and a first Nelson flag for Jacob Skurr who, in his rookie season, showed good composure under pressure from Blake Hearne. Max Baker, Jack Burson and Jonti Austin were prominent in most of the heats with Russ awarded the overall title on 48 points from Baker, who charged through in the last heat after a spin to tally 44 with Hearne third on 43. Best of the visitors was Marcos Marshall from Blenheim with Aleisha Oakley first of the female drivers as both she and Rachel Bradbury in 29P cracked the top 10.

There are just two meetings remaining in Nelson’s season with the next race night on March 28 when Donaldson Civil presents the Hydraulink War of the Wings for sprintcars.


Photos: Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography