By Pete McNae


Ryan Musgrove has his speedway priorities sorted. A pretty race car is a nice thing to have but he is all about extracting maximum bang from his bucks.

The 11-year veteran of the streetstock class at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway says streeties only ever look good once, on the day they are built. Once that first green light comes on, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So Saturday’s Capelli Hair Salon New Zealand Streetstock Grand Prix meeting isn’t going to be a car show — more a big field of cars putting on a show. After a lull and predictions of a collapse in the ranks locally three seasons ago, the streeties are back in good numbers and have been the most entertaining class on the card this summer.

And it’s not just numbers. Musgrove says the quality of the field has skyrocketed.

“The gear has stepped up, the crews have stepped up, the level has gone through the roof,” the truck driver for Waimea Contract Carriers said. “With the rules for the Ford motors now, these things are making pretty good, cheap horsepower. There’s plenty of them around so the class is taking off again.”

Ah, the Fords. Musgrove said, even a year ago,  a major meeting like Saturday’s Grand Prix, which starts at the earlier time of 5.30pm to accommodate the large field, might have had 10 of the later model BA Falcons with a 4-litre twin-cam motor. This year’s New Zealand title in Dunedin two weeks ago saw closer to 30. It’s a Blue Oval bombardment and the Holdens and Japanese V8s are being swamped.

“The stockcar guys are buying up the Holden motors and the Lexus motors are what the superstock guys want so you’ll see mostly Fords,” Musgrove said. “When anything is in short supply, the price goes up so it might cost five grand to get a Toyota V8 ready and I can buy a Barra like mine, not even change the computer, and be up the front for a thousand bucks.”

Musgrove has learned a few tricks since making his debut in the class back in the 2009-10 season, though. He’s mostly built his own cars and aims to get two seasons out of one. The current 9N is in its second year and its replacement will have a lighter cage and more power from a change in the ECU (electronic control unit — the engine’s computer). And new panels, for the first week, at least.

“I’m pretty lazy in the shed so I don’t really care what the car looks like as long as it does what it is meant to do, mechanically. A bit depends on how I choose to race, too … if I need a car to last a little longer, then I have to stay off the pole line.”

Through those lean times at his home track, often Musgrove had to make his own fun among the streetstocks. A passionate teams racer, club nights sometimes meant he chose from one of three driving styles to keep those energy levels up. Least favoured is flag racing, out front and clean for the win. In the middle is the pole line pest, just hanging around challenging others to come past as Musgrove looks to spin them up. His most likely choice is to chuck the big BA wagon around, seeing how far sideways he can keep the car while still lapping quickly.

“I’m there to entertain the fans, but it keeps me amused too,” he said. “Nelson is just one big corner so you can just keep the arse out and the tyres spinning to light things up a bit.”

Arse out might not work so well this weekend, with a strong field made up of almost all the local guys plus a healthy handful from around the South Island, including new 1NZ Darrell Hoon Richards from Dunedin, 3NZ Levi van Lieshout and former national champions Dave McSherry and Simon Bland. Another recent 1NZ, Brenden Gooch, is here all the way from Gisborne and there are two more of the Gooch clan from the Poverty Bay in the field. It’s clearly the best lineup of streeties Nelson has assembled since the nationals were held here in 2014 and Musgrove couldn’t be happier.

“It’s going to be a big wreck-fest,” he enthused.  “And the NZs are in Blenheim next season so it’s a good warmup for that.”

A few Nelson cars made the trip to Beachlands for the 2020-21 nationals with another of the Muz Motorsport crew, Cody McCarrison, the only N car to make the final field. Musgrove was told he was in after qualifying, then a lap scoring recount found a missed car, he lost a couple of placings and was out again. On night two, off the front in the repechage, the car popped a tyre that put him out of contention and then a plug connection on the ECU came loose after a hit and killed the car’s computer in tier 2 racing. McCarrison finished in a strong sixth in the championship field while there was no luck for the other Nelson cars in Dunedin.

Musgrove is still excited by the experience, the looming prospect of more teams racing with the Nelson Knights (State of Origin teams racing is set down for early March at Woodford Glen) and the good feeling around the class in general after some divisive days in the past. The Muz Motorsport blanket covers Musgrove, McCarrison, former crewman Harry Moffat-Schwass who will be in his own car, the 39N Falcon wagon, this weekend and Shannon Marr, who might finally have a halfway decent motor in his Falcon. The “Schwass HQ” setup (Harry’s Dad and Mum) have supported that group while Bradley Evans (5N Falcon panel van) of Richmond Radiator and Exhaust has also been a big player in building the numbers.

“For us and Brad, it’s about getting people into the class and getting cars on the track,” Musgrove said. “He’s got parts in a lot of the cars out there and if he hasn’t, we have, or both of us do.

“The thing about these cars is that they’re softer and they bend so you can get hit and be back at work on Monday — and you don’t have to throw mega-dollars at them, just aim up and go. Basically, we are getting on pretty good as a group now because if you pick on people, you kill the class and we want it to head the other way and make people want to race streeties.

“If you hit me, though, I’ll remember. It’s part of the buzz of streetstocks, eh, you can get payback. It might not be the next lap, but it is coming.”

  • Ryan Musgrove is supported by his family, Dodgy Darryl and his lifelong supporter, Lynley (his former primary school teacher) plus major backers Schwass HQ, along with Jacks Tyres, Richmond Exhaust and Radiator Specialists and Muz Motorsport.
  • As noted Saturday’s meeting starts earlier than usual, at 5.30 pm, due to the big field entered for the Capelli Hair Salon New Zealand Streetstock Grand Prix. Among the support classes is the Classic/Historic Stockcars, who proved popular at the PTS Superstock Stampede meeting in December.

Photos supplied by club photographer Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography