By Pete McNae
Here’s a concept for Disney’s next stage spectacular — super saloons on ice. When it hasn’t rained in Nelson basically since the last decade and there are 16 super saloons on the Moutere clay track at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, it’s going to be dusty. And it’s going to be slippery slick. And there’s a fair chance the feature race might resemble an expensive demolition derby.
Tick, tick, tick.
Last night’s third round of the Mag and Turbo Super Cup, presented by MD Freighting, became a 30-lap lesson in driving to survive. Cubic horsepower was more of a hindrance than a help on a glassy black one-lane track and car control and judicious use of the right boot saw Blenheim’s Paddy North (coincidentally Mr MD Freighting) a popular winner of the feature 30-lapper.
Those 30 laps took maybe 50 to complete, too. The field of 16 was down to 12 when there were still 29 circuits to complete. Out first, Owen Dixon from Invercargill in the turn one wall. Right behind him, one of the Cup favourites, Ray Stewart who was tangled in an incident that was not of his making which bent the car out of shape enough to be un-raceable. Exit also the 11C Jason Fletcher/Jason Phillips car and Dunedin’s Terry Soper, another to get a rude welcome to Nelson. And, as the laps wound down and North kept circulating safely in front, there were DNFs for Isaac Russ, Kane Lawson and Ryan Marsden with Dave Manera the last man classified as a finisher, yet still in the top 10, placing ninth.
And a step off the pole line onto an outside groove made the likes of high qualifier Paul Berg and Marsden look like they had a handbrake on as they went backwards in a no traction zone.
Take nothing away from North. He knows Nelson intimately, having raced supers here for years and also featuring in his former saloon and current sprintcar. A clever heat drive and strong effort in the pole shuffle saw him start on the front row and he simply had to drive smartly from there as other challengers fell away. Mark Osborne was a second behind in second while series leader Trevor Elliott ran a cautious third overall. Invercargill’s Euan Shearing will be rapt with fourth while perhaps the most fortunate member of the top five was Nelson’s Ian Burson. A pretty average first heat saw him make contact with Soper twice, damaging the 3NZ enough to miss the second round of heats, miss the pole shuffle and start the feature from the 16th and last place on the grid. On that challenging track, he turned the race’s quickest lap (possibly his slowest quick lap ever), other cars dropped out, he passed a few and cracked the top five. One spot behind, after a mad thrash to rebuild an engine, was clubmate Shane Carey, another who will be happy to load the car on the trailer needing little more than a cut and polish.
On a night when superstocks, stockcars and streetstocks were on the programme, there was minimal contact — the TQs and production saloons had the night off here. Perhaps that’s understandable with championship season in full swing and expensive travel and repair bills behind most teams and still ahead for a few. Among those are the Tasman Thunder stockcar team drivers. Just a week ago, it was posted that the Thunder would miss the New Zealand stockcar teams nationals in Stratford for the second season in a row having lost the use of a couple of team cars. Now, with the help of Greymouth’s Dylan Robb and young Blenheim pedaller Wade Sweeting, both of whom will join the Nelson club for the occasion, the team will travel to the ‘naki later this month. Adam Hall will captain the side which also includes Sweeting, Robb, John Everett, Dylan Clarke and Dylan Hall. Three Dylans out of six drivers — seems legit.
In other positive news in the stockcar class, Ben Smith had his 1NZ car on the track in its new livery and proved his worth with two wins from three heats (Michael Paynter had the other) and Brad Neiman fronted in Brad Frost’s 66N Ecotech Homes car less than a year after quitting the sport following a serious back and pelvic injury in his former superstock. Starting off the back in each race, an understandably nervous Neiman ran sixth, fourth and a slightly messy 11th. With Smith being relegated from first to third in one race, that simply promoted triples team-mate Sweeting to a win, the promotion seeing a runaway triples victory for the grouping of Smith, Sweeting and Paul Perkins with a 22-point gap back to Clarke, Everett and Morgan Dumelow with Adam Hall, Troy Currie and Melissa Gifford taking third.
It was musical chairs night for the six-car superstock field with Alex Hill out, Kerry Hill in, in 95N, Phil Krammer out, Bryce Lindup in, in 32N and Ben Taylor out, John Strickett in, in 6N. Brett Nicholls had an easy run in heat one when there was no hitting and very little passing but heats two and three were more entertaining. Ian Clayworth ripped out his first win in his new car in race two and Hill chased down Trevor Lineham for the flag in race three. Three second placings were enough to see Lineham tally 18 points overall though, great reward for a driver who has stuck by the class in its leanest period. Hill, who hasn’t raced regularly in a couple of seasons was second, with Nicholls third overall despite not gridding for race three. Let’s hope Lindup and Strickett got the bug — and the budget, to come back some day.
It was closed club championship night for the streeties and a good local field of 13 fronted for heat one. DNFs for Aaran Findlay, Thomas McLeod and Brayden Skurr were a sign of a tough night ahead for the trio while Ray Brand’s new BMW grubby made its first appearance and finished eighth but didn’t return for heats two and three with gearbox issues. Neville Soper grabbed race one from Bradley Evans but, when Evans’ car conked out in race two, Steve Soper took over to win the club championship. A runoff between Shannon Marr and KC Rose for second was decided after Rose dived hard left into Marr off the start, but broke the driveshaft, Rose being pushed to the infield as Marr limped to second on three tyres.
Youth ministock racing was where the club officials earned their keep with one exclusion, one relegation and some other drivers dancing fairly close to the margins. While the usual group of five more experienced racers found their way to the front, heat one was notable for great drives by Jack Burson and Piper Blackbourn, then Luke Higgins got amongst it later, posting a third placing, then a second for the best results of his first speedway season, Jacob Skurr also cracking the top six twice. Wins went to Cambell McManaway, who was then excluded from heat two as Blake Hearne got the W while Hearne was relegated to position four in the last race, won again by McManaway.
Sidecars completed the card, the best pairs again drawing a handy field from Nelson, Blenheim and Christchurch. Racing was run over three rounds with two groups per round, with no team managing to sweep three wins. It looked like Nelson’s dominant duo of Adie Drake and Kieran Satherley might manage it but one wide corner was all the opportunity Canterbury’s Karl Foster and Michael Twose needed to pull off a stunning win. That was matched a heat later when Cantabrians Paul Anderson and passenger Johnny Maxwell put in the hard work, only to be run down on the line by Blenheim’s Lester Schroder/Sean Nolan, who have their mechanical issues beaten and were quick all meeting. When it emerged that Drake-Satherley were paired with Schroder-Nolan, there was no doubt who the overall winners would be, their 36 points leaving them comfortably clear of Anderson-Maxwell and drawn partner Brent Steer and Wade Thorn, with third overall going to the Blenheim combinations of Knuckle Hill-Dan Smith and Neil Bruce and swinger Kevin Reiher.
Nelson’s next meeting is the annual Racing for the Kids night in support of the Child Cancer Foundation and featuring youth ministocks in Ministock Mania, the return of the 8-15-year-olds in quarter midgets and the fun of the kids’ bike race on February 15.
Photos, Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography