MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Written by Pete McNae
Imagine you threw a 50th birthday party and no one showed up. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway this evening as the Nelson club closed its anniversary season with fields boosted by visiting competitors.
Some were regulars – TQ racers Jeremy Webb and Kyle Glover and production saloon driver Dave Allan know the Nelson layout as well as they do their own home tracks. For others, it was a first-time visit, like Josh Murdoch, who towed his Falcon production all the way from Otago. The talent infusion allowed the local club to end their anniversary season on a decent note, despite the absence of the blue ribbon classes; superstocks, super saloons, sprintcars and the midgets – who raced in Nelson just once this past summer.
At stake at the meeting, presented by Nelson Automotive Solutions, were Easter championships across six competing classes. For many years, Nelson has run Easter titles on one night and club and open events on the next, or qualifying followed by finals. Under the straitened terms of their resource consent, there was just one shot available, Easter title for everyone, wrapped up in a day.
Top of the entertainment tree were the stockcars, who had help from Canterbury, Greymouth and Blenheim. And it’s almost easier to list who didn’t get rolled or take a wall ride than mention those who did. It started in heat one, lap one, turn one when Levi Collier was tipped over and Troy Currie got a 22-day stand-down. Heat two had three lengthy delays as firstly Daniel Cox from the Coast, then Canterbury Tank commander Daniel Lamb, then Greenstone Park promoter George Watson were rolled. John Everett got a closer look at the concrete past the start finish line and crowd pleaser Harley Robb drilled heat one winner Paul Perkins. Suddenly a big field was being removed by the handful.
Heat three for the championship lacked the all out brutality of heat two, but Perkins went for a square-up on Robb, Brad Rosewarne caught Perkins and Watson sent Nelson’s Hamish Carter up and over in turn three. With race wins for Perkins, Jay Holtham and Ben Smith – but all three having at least one crunchy heat – Cantabrian Rosewarne was a runaway winner with 53 points ahead of Everett and Blenheim’s Melissa Gifford. Smith was fourth and won the flying farewell, while Morgan Dumelow made it two women in the top five and then had a running battle with Robb in the final race of the summer.
There’s still streetstock racing to come in Blenheim and Greymouth in the coming days but, like the stockcars, tonight’s three races had that end-of-the-season feel to them. Thirteen cars gridded up in heat one, six were on the infield after two laps and five made it to the finish. Big brother Kyle (Hundy) Davies snotted younger sibling Kieran (Fiddy) Davies in turn one, disabling both cars while Canterbury’s Buddy Finch was on the wrong end of a solid shot and Blenheim’s Daniel Honey got stuck in until he was called away from the meeting. Again, heats two and three were more modest with “tap and spin” more the order than “full on, send it”. Race wins went to Thomas Macleod, Ryan Musgrove and the overall champion, Canterbury’s Dan McNally who racked up 37 points to come home ahead of Nelson’s Nathan Thomas and Rob Skurr.
The youth ministock class added two drivers – welcome to Jack Burson and Harlen Brunt – while others were having their last run before turning 17 and graduating to adult ranks. A great field of 20 gridded up in heat one and, after banging on for most of the season about poor driver behaviour, relegations and exclusions, all 20 young drivers drove cleanly, fairly and right to their limits without stepping over the line. Heat one and two were taken out by regular flagbearer Brayden Skurr, with the third won by young Ashton Osborne after a brave run around Ben Hern on the high side. Final points saw Skurr crowned Easter champion by a single point from Hern with Osborne in third. With his dad, Mark Osborne, unable to run his super saloon when the class was pulled midweek due to lack of numbers, a heat win and podium placing must have been some consolation.
Sidecars were the one class racing with an all-local field, five bikes fronting for the Easter title. What looked like becoming the scenario for a ripsnorting heat three after earlier wins for Nippy Ching/Shaun Solly and Adie Drake/Kieran Satherley ended in a sombre fashion with racing contact between two bikes in the deciding heat, resulting in an injury for Satherley, later diagnosed as a haematoma. Drake brought the bike to a stop on the infield half a lap later and the race was called with Ching/Solly in front and the overall points leaders from Drake and Satherley with Brent Steer and Wade Thorn rounding out the top three.
The production saloon class drew the long-distance entrant, Murdoch in his Falcon, Blenheim entertainer Sam Martin in another Falcon, former 3NZ Matt Sherlock and a tidy helping from Blenheim and Greymouth to take on an established Nelson field. Eddie Frans and Tony Diedrichs battled through heat one, Frans getting the nod, while in heat two Martin made the big blue Ford as wide as possible to protect a front row start all the way for the win. When Frans backed up in heat three, he tallied 52 points, four clear of Sherlock with Martin a point back in third.
The sixth class on the card has been the Nelson club’s backbone through its anniversary season with consistently good numbers of quality cars and drivers and as many rollovers as all the others combined. Yet again, the three-quarter midgets delivered – no belly ups this time – but delivered the rare sight of the nigh-on unbeatable national champion failing to win a race, a loose wheel, escaping engine fluids and a championship for a part-time pedaller who makes a habit of winning features. Heat one saw a win for Greymouth’s Rodney Thompson while the heat two results credit Darkie Armstrong – but the results lie with Morgan Frost actually at the controls. The 7N car was oozing in that race though and it cost Frost a shot at a feature win when he had to go infield. That opened the door for Jayden Corkill and he strode through, fashioning a big lead and then defending it against charges from Jeremy Webb and Kyle Glover after a yellow flag. In fact, Corkill was hauling away again crossing a second ahead of Glover with 1NZ Webb in third and Alicia Mclauchlan fourth in her final race as a single woman.
With that, the club ended a challenging 50th season that saw huge amounts of hard work behind the scenes simply to keep the venue operating. More of the same will be required when the 2019-20 summer rolls around in October.
Photos, Tom Laney, www.imagepress.co.nz