KING OF THE HILL
By Pete McNae
Don’t start shovelling soil on top of the superstock class in Nelson just yet. With his win in the Hi Reach Access Solutions South Island Superstock Championship tonight, Nelson’s Alex Hill showed that, given half a chance and a decent field, the class can still put on a show that punters will pay to watch. And, as a taster for the PTS Superstock Stampede at Easter, mouths are watering at the prospect of an even bigger field on Good Friday.
Tonight’s meeting drew 18 starters, Nelson fronting with five mobile cars as Ian Clayworth has some motor issues with his one-off BMW superstock. Ben Taylor only got two laps into heat one before his night was done too. But there were six starters from Canterbury, Dunedin’s Nigel Anderton and Adam Groome from Hawke’s Bay (both drivers who were keen to teams race for the Tigers), a lone long distance traveller from Paradise Valley in Rotorua’s Paul Mabey, then some real class out of Manawatu with Will Humphries and the three-car team of Wayne and Jayme Hemi and Jordan Dare.
With a front row draw, Hill needed points in the bank in heat one and did his job, heading home Nelson clubmate Brett Nicholls, with Humphries in third. Wayne Hemi tangled with Lloyd Jennings and was left in the turn three wall with steering damage while there were close races in midfield between Dare and Phil Krammer and Malcolm Ngatai and Jayme Hemi.
Heat two gridded up minus Taylor as Krammer only got two laps before cutting out a tyre. Anderton and Canterbury’s Mike Hyslop got together while Hill had a big moment with Darrel (Saus) Wallace but battled on for fifth. The win and fastest lap time went to Wayne Hemi, ahead of Canterbury’s impressive Lloyd Jennings with Dare rounding out the top three. The tally-up after two heats saw Hill and Nicholls tied on 48 points with Dare and Ngatai sniffing around.
Nicholls’ crack at another South Island title ended just off turn two in lap one when his car got turned sideways and was pinballed under Trevor Lineham’s 99N into the wall. The reds came on and a highly discontented Nicholls was sent infield, torpedoing his chances. Krammer had a go at holding up Dare, Wayne Hemi’s car quit by the pit gates and, as Ngatai ran away for the heat win ahead of Humphries and Jennings, Hill was driving to survive, lasting lap after lap with Jayme Hemi and Dare filling his mirrors. Fourth was enough though, the understated Nelson driver capping a strong season with his first South Island title on 71 points with Dare second (68) and Ngatai, who is winding down his superstock career, third with 66. Jennings and Groome filled out the top 5.
A flying farewell saw a few gaps on the grid and Humphries earn a well-deserved win ahead of the resurgent Dare and Jayme Hemi. Mabey and Hyslop had their best outings of the meeting in the 12-lapper that capped the programme.
The meeting represented a bounce-back for the Nelson Speedway Association who had pulled just 750 punters to their last meeting at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway. There were fewer conflicting attractions but the crowd also reflected the drawing power of 18 superstocks.
The rest of the night saw club championships completed, a couple of best pairs promotions and some fine-tuning by the Nelson Knights for next weekend’s Streetstock State of Origin. The Knights have never had much luck at the State of O (despite a series win a couple of seasons back) with Canterbury’s big fields of competitive cars and the raw racing style of the streeties from further south tough on the team from the 7010, but with Ryan Musgrove and former 1NZ Dave McSherry on board, they could go all right at the Glen. Musgrove bullied the good field with three relatively comfortable wins and 33 points to Nathan Thomas’ 21 and McSherry’s 20 from two completed heats. McSherry had the Toyota V8 on the rev limiter as he won a bonus race at the end of the night while Brayden Skurr and Kieran (Fiddy) Davies were in the middle of most of the bump and grind. A little flag wave too, to Kyle (Hundy) Davies for being the good citizen of the class, picking up random broken bars and pushing home crapped-out rivals.
The production saloon class ran a best pairs promotion bolstered by the entry of Dunedin driver Josh Murdoch and, although her pair didn’t crack the top three, there was no wiping the grin off the face of Zoe Connolly, who took her first flag in Nelson after winning a recent race in Blenheim to break her duck. Connolly said later that “from being lapped last season to now battling the pack is so much fun” and she out-stripped that, showing the field a clean pair of wheels in heat three. Other race wins were recorded by her partner in CZ Motorsport, Cam Lankshear, and Kaylim McNabb with McNabb and the entertaining Joseph Sutton forming the overall best pair. Not far behind (three points back) were Geoff Watson and Dave Leitch with Eddy Frans and Pam Nixon partnered up in third.
There were best pairs in the youth ministock class too, although no final tally was provided. With two wins and a third placing, Blake Hearne was the leading individual points scorer, ahead of Jonti Austin and Max Baker who tied for second. The trio turned on one of the better finishes on the night as Baker ran, Austin reeled him in and slipped through for the lead then Hearne went past both on the last corner as they worked their way through lapped traffic. Like Connolly in the proddies, there was a popular first win for Callum Russ, denied at Nelson’s last meeting by a relegation but getting the job done this time in heat three.
The three-quarter midgets weren’t running for anything in particular this time, having already wrapped up their club title but they still drew a good all-local field despite the absence of two or three regular starters. John Shoester, a recent addition to the class here, and Mark Bezett kept up a strong recent run but it’s hard to go past the old firm of Frost, Hill and Corkill. Morgan Frost won heat one, Alicia Hill snaffled heat two and, in the feature, Frost was leading when his car dropped its guts in turn two, the ensuing incident taking out Hill. Thanks very much, said Jayden Corkill as he banked another feature with Raiden Hearne back on the podium in second.
The sidecars rounded out a good meeting with the final round of their club championships. Having broken the back of their work in earlier meetings, the pairing of Brent Steer and Wade Thorn locked up the championship with a win in the second round of heats. It’s good reward for a team who often operate in the shadows of the other placegetters but who rarely miss a meeting and put in the effort behind the scenes. Nippy Ching and Shaun Solly came in second overall and scored a great race win over Adie Drake and swinger Kieran Satherley, who were third overall and equal top scorers on the night … their championship charge undone by travel to other tracks earlier in the season. Again, the sidecar rep put in the miles, attracting visitors from Canterbury and Eastern States with combinations from each track fourth and fifth overall.
There are three meetings left in the Nelson speedway summer with the next race night on March 14 when it’s the Autobatt Nelson King of the Clay.
Photos: Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography