PUNCHING ABOVE YOUR WEIGHT
By Pete McNae
Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s just good business sense.
When the Nelson Speedway Association was faced with a likely field of 10 for the South Island sprintcar championship and the stockcars and sidecars couldn’t scrape up numbers to take their place in the programme tonight, there was talk around scrapping the meeting. Would anyone show for a night where a Nelson versus Nelson streetstock race and club events for six super saloons and eight superstocks were the drawcards? The answer is yes. Instead of a six-week hiatus between meetings, the club brought in youth ministocks and historic stockcars and rolled the dice with what they had. And on a fine February evening, speedway-starved Nelsonians and a surprising number of first-time patrons fronted up at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway for a lightweight evening of flicking clay.
The streetstocks must be as happy as pigs in poop, being the main billing two meetings in a row. After the outstanding New Zealand Grand Prix meeting, good numbers fronted again to help the Nelson Knights prepare for the State of Origin teams meeting in Christchurch. The team was split in half, three on each side and then six more from outside the squad were drafted in to make a six-on-six teams race to open the meeting. KC Rose’s unhappy run ended early in the wall by the hotdog stand as the rest of the grid got busy with blocking and running practice. Anthony Gane and Cody McCarrison were busy throughout, with McCarrison’s team-mate Matt Watson taking the win ahead of Gane and Kieran Davies. The winning team was made up of Watson, McCarrison, Rose, Josh Atkinson, Brayden Skurr and Greg Taylor.
The class then moved into a hit-to-pass promotion in the open races where Steve Soper showed he’s ready to wreak some havoc in the State of O. The experienced Ford pilot had a second, a win and a stirring seventh from his later races for 50 points overall, while Watson also racked up 50, the win being decided Soper’s way on a coin toss. McCarrison rounded out the top three.
Open race one winner Skurr had what could only be described as a mixed night, powering to the flag in a very quick car, then getting a bit over-excited with the stirring in the second heat and being stood down and out of race three. New to the class were one of Skurr’s targets, Connor Blackbourn in an ex-Army Green Racing Team Falcon, and Kylie Hall in Bradley Evans’ Ford panel van. Both looked like they belong with Hall seriously bitten by the bug that has already had a piece of Dad Peter, brothers Adam and Dylan and partner KC Rose. Hall said her mission was to try to follow more experienced drivers and a ninth placing and an 18.2s lap in the final race amounts to a box ticked. A mention too for “Fiddy” Davies who finished well down in the overall points but got busy with the bumpers and even had a pop at Ryan Musgrove in one heat.
It was closed club championship night for the superstocks with all available Nelson cars fronting. Brett Nicholls had a fast car tonight and was a deserved winner of the club championship with a 2, 1, 3 evening, the third placing coming after he and Ant McKenzie tangled in the last corner, allowing Alex Hill through to take second overall. McKenzie, who won twice on the night and Trevor Lineham, who also got a well-earned turn with the flag, shared third, Lineham winning the coin flip. Quickest lap for the class was a 15.53s circuit by Nicholls who had the 48N Gordge humming. Paul Perkins got one race out of the 22N Ford 6 then came back out in Ian Clayworth’s BMW and was running well until the turn one wall got in the way. Contrary to what was initially stated, it wasn’t stockcar pedaller Michael Paynter at the wheel — but a hop, skip and a jump across the pits might still happen.
Another small but perfectly formed field fronted in the super saloon class where the Trackman Trophy was at stake. With the bulk of the South Island field competing in the Mag and Turbo Cup, Nelson had four of its six club cars entered while Josh Boulton in 891C and older brother Ricky (861D) gave the club a serviceable field. The trophy was contested over two heats and a feature, Campbell McManaway taking heat one with Ricky Boulton winning the other. In the feature, McManaway got the big 492N car’s nose in front and looked like he might haul away but then had to fight hard to keep the Boultons behind him. Ricky Boulton was sent to the back of the field for spinning Shane Carey which torpedoed his chances, the final feature podium reading McManaway 1, Josh Boulton 2 and Carey 3. A bonus race added to a meeting that was almost done in daylight provided some consolation for Ricky Boulton with a victory as Isaac Russ had a good run for third.
It was round two of the club championship for the TQ midgets and tonight’s results will have shaken the standings. Jayden Corkill didn’t make it through heat one while the fastest off the back format presented a tough task for the likes of Alicia Hill and James Thompson. Heat winners were Coasters Cameron McKenzie, who has his Harris TQ and trailer for sale, and Thompson and they made up the back row for the feature 15-lapper. Seventh on points after the heats was Jonti (11NZ) Austin which saw him well forward for the feature and the first-season TQ driver turned in 15 flawless laps for his first club win and (obviously) his first feature win. One happy chappy. Behind him Joe Keene hung on in second for 14 laps until Dylan Bensemann got by, Keene taking a pleasing third as Hill and Thompson were elbowed off the podium. Thompson got the better of a depleted field in an extra outing.
The two classes added to the meeting wrapped things up. The historics have fronted three times now and while there were six legit classic cars entered (the Baker brothers in their retro-appearing flat chassis stockcars were only running to boost numbers) they continue to bring smiles to the dials of anyone who grew up with small siderails and not an overhead cam in sight. Brent Goulding had his original Dave Evans Tank performing, sounding glorious and lapping rapidly and he was a worthy winner overall ahead of Ken Nell and Pete Anglesey. Goulding had reliability issues the last time Nelson hosted proven cars from the North Island but it would be interesting to see a fair fight between the Tank and the likes of Charlie Harper, Dave Evans and Paul Urlich before the season ends.
Youth ministock numbers were down but they still managed to rub the ref up the wrong way with race one relegations for Luke Higgins and Jacob Skurr while Blenheim’s Aaron Marshall was the one penalised later. Marshall and Blenheim clubmate Samuel Croft have been staunch supporters of the Nelson club this summer and each was credited with a win as Skurr also banked one, ahead of Higgins. Big improvements tonight came from Deegan Broker and Leilah Jefcoate as they grow in confidence, especially with some of the usual pace-setters away at the Ministocks in Paradise meeting in Rotorua.
Nelson’s next race night also includes a race afternoon with big fields anticipated for the Thelin Construction New Zealand Sidecar Grand Prix on March 6. As it is a one-day-only meeting, qualifying will need to start at 4pm with racing proper from 6pm. Meanwhile, the postponed Dirtworks Nelson South island Sprintcars looks likely to be slotted in at the end of the season in mid-April.