NEAREST THING TO NELSON

 

By Pete McNae

 

When the visiting drivers roll into town this weekend for the Nelson Speedway Association’s third attempt at staging the PTS Logistics Superstock Stampede, there is one who warrants home crowd support more than most.

Hawke’s Bay’s Adam Groome has a special fondness for the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway. He’s teams raced for the Tigers — and would again if circumstances aligned. The motor in his 9B superstock comes from just over the hill and the chassis was built by a Nelson bloke who is a past national champion — who also built a championship-winning chassis for another recent 1NZ. Close enough to local?

“Nelson’s one of our special tracks,” Groome, a diesel mechanic from Hastings, said. “We like the people and the place. The whole family enjoys travelling down, we’d be there a lot more often if it wasn’t so dear to get across that strip of water.”

The Groomy Racing Team; Adam and parents Mike and Kaye, along with a small but perfectly formed band of helpers, is not a high-dollar operation. And there haven’t been any standout individual results, although a podium at the teams champs with Hawke’s Bay was a proud moment. But Groome is the kind of competitor clubs need. He will put car and body on the line and doesn’t have a bad word for anyone. He was among the first names on the list for the Stampede after sitting in the rain in Nelson’s pits late last year when Stampede 1.0 was washed out while the second version was lost to the Covid lockdown.

“When we saw the Nelson club was going to have another go, there was no doubt about entering. It’s given us a chance to have the car in the South Island for a little bit of a birthday, too.”

The 9B has been undergoing heart surgery with engine builder Grahame Morrison at Midwest Motors, where much of Groome’s story has its roots. Dad Mike was a latecomer to speedway, finally being pushed towards his first superstock by Kaye and a bit of a financial boost from Kaye’s mum’s will.  A Chev 6-powered car, it served Groome well until he bought the former 19N car of Mark Ewers, a Kuriger chassis running a Ford 6.  Adam Groome made his debut in the sport in the upper years of his youth ministock eligibility, then ran superstocks alongside his Dad with Adam in the Kuriger car. When he flew down one weekend to help former Nelsonian and current Hawkeye Thomas Stanaway put his car together, Adam was introduced to Morrison, the engine builder behind the likes of national superstock champions Dale Ewers, Malcolm Ngatai, Brendan Higgins and Shane Harwood.

“I guess he gave me a bit of stick about having an old Kuriger running a six-cylinder. I laughed it off but Grahame actually rang the next day to sort of apologise, which I didn’t expect. I was happy with what I had but that call started a bit of a connection. I’d pick his brains and Grahame took us under his wing and helped us save money by letting me rebuild the motor with him overseeing it and stepping in when my knowledge ran out.”

Then, racing for the Hawkeyes at teams, the Ford went to six-cylinder heaven. A catastrophic failure left the 9B team facing a fresh start.

“Grahame gave it to me straight. He said it will cost X amount to put this back together  … or we could use that same amount for a deposit on a Toyota (V8). I didn’t want to be sitting on a couch at 50 wondering, ‘what if’, so with a quick loan from the bank of Mum and Dad, we got the Midwest motor started.”

And here’s the next Nelson tie-in. While pondering the best home for the new motor, and again working to a defined budget, Morrison suggested a chat with Higgins and made a phone call. An icon in our sport, Higgins had wound down his own racing career and was happily engineering cars in his spare time between work, family and track prep for the Nelson club.

“I love Harwood’s car,” Groome said. “And Hig was always the man in teams racing and I love teams racing so we started to chat about perhaps buying a set of plans or running a tape measure over a car so we could build our own. In the end, the price Brendan came up with for the whole package … I almost thought he had made a mistake.  We ordered the full build and I couldn’t be happier.”

The car has been with Morrison in recent weeks for a refresh and a little upgrade for a few extra revs, handy with all of the hot rods around these days. Groome says even 200rpm more can make an “amazing” difference out of tight corners and, with the NZ champs in Rotorua and the Battle of the Stocks at the Glen later this season, there are a couple of those tight corner situations where a little bit more oomph reduces the target area hugely.

But, while those changes are going to be handy for championship racing, Groome’s first love is the teams stuff. He has been in the Hawkeyes team in a couple of different cars and is a member of their current squad. He also put his hand up to help the Tigers in Palmy in February 2017 as the storied Nelson team began its slide into lean times. The story goes that he was ready to put on orange and black again in 2020, too, but Nelson couldn’t drag together a team and support structure at short notice.

“I’ll teams race every week ahead of normal racing,” Groome said. “It is almost the peak of superstock racing but you have to accept that you can go with a mint car and come home with bugger all.

“Hawke’s Bay put a system in place where there was a fund set up in Terry Mellsop’s era with Dad and first you go out to win races and have fun but there’s financial support there for damages if you need it. If you don’t, then I don’t want any money to teams race … it is either in your blood or it’s not but you shouldn’t be in it for a pile of cash at the end, in my eyes.

“Hawke’s Bay is where it’s at with teams racing in the last five years but I am not in the squad to make up numbers or get my name on a poster. I want to be on the track and the guys know that, if I have to take the car home in a basket to help get the win, that’s what I will do.”

  • Adam Groome’s 9B superstock team is Mike and Kaye, Lily, Knob and Awesome Paul, while Luke Higgins joins the crew in the South Island. Graeme and Bev Malton helped Adam into youth ministocks, as they have done with half a dozen others including recent 1NZ Jason Long.  Sponsors on the car include Bay Tyres, K R Tong Engineering, Sign It Up, Mike Groome Joinery, HB Trim and Canvas, Engineering Solutions, W R Twigg (HB), Patangata Tavern, Mancave Direct, Midwest Motors, Higgins Racecars and Century Batteries.
  • Saturday’s PTS Logistics Superstock Stampede is presented by the Miers family from Manawatu and a host of supporting sponsors. The Nelson club has held ticket prices at the same level as a regular meeting for Saturday night’s show.
  • Supporting classes are super saloons, production saloons, sidecars, youth ministocks and Historic Stockcars featuring 2 x 1nz and champion teams racer Dave Evans and 1993-94 South Island champion Brian Winstanley. In a change to the programme, the first race will now be at the usual time of 6pm, due to the TQs coming out of the schedule. 
  • For those unable to attend the meeting, Jason Gutteridge and the team from The Pits Media have a full live stream available. The link to purchase the $30 stream is  https://iframe.dacast.com/live/36f563c6-b09c-4a58-bb5e-a89aacaee473/6c60800c-0008-d997-058a-b94dca814658

 

Main image: Thanks to Graham Hughes, Sportsweb Photography www.speedwaynz.com

Additional images: Thanks to Maru Goodley, Legaspeed Illustrations