SALUTE TO THE GENERAL

By Pete McNae

 

There are two things Dave Evans doesn’t like much — leaving home and talking on the phone — but they are outweighed by the one thing he loves most, speedway.

So, when Central Classic Stockcar Club figure Charlie Harper rang the 66-year-old Foxton farmer and ag contractor and told him Nelson’s Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway was planning to run the Historic Stockcars on Saturday, Evans had to choose the latter over both of the former.

“Charlie rang and I wouldn’t be travelling without him doing it all, it’s tough to get me away from home,” Evans said.

There is a whole speedway generation who won’t realise how good Evans was, probably still is. He definitely lets his actions speak louder than his words but he is a two-time national superstock champion, back when the class was called A-Grade stockcars. He’s a longtime Palmerston North Panther and, if you search the interwebs for long enough, there will be footage of Evans eliminating a whole opposing team, car by car, singlehandedly to help Palmy win a teams race. And he’s a clever car builder and innovator.

A walk through Nelson’s pits on Saturday, for the PTS Superstock Stampede meeting, will turn up a handful of Evans builds. There’s the car Harper restored and runs, powered by Clifford Ford 6, a nimble high-revving car. There’s the 1P Tank to be driven by Brent Goulding from Blenheim, one of the early Tanks Evans built after Bruce Robertson and the Jamieson Motors team created the original. And there’s a more recent Evans Tank, number 5 off the production line, now running as a superstock, owned and driven by Chris Baxter. Then there is the car Evans is bringing south — another 6P, powered by Ford 6.

He thinks this one made its debut in 1985-86 and was raced for around four seasons. This is a replica, the original was scrapped back in the days before Historic and Classic classes and people wanting to preserve our speedway heritage.  What made this car unique was that it ran without bodywork, the whole construction consisting of folded plate steel. A look around the pits on Saturday will show that, 35 years later, cars without bodywork are back in vogue.

“It was built to look a bit like the English cars,” Evans said. “They didn’t have the big bodies on them so I pushed the rules about as far as I could back in the 80s.”

It was designed to suit Englishman Chris Elwell, who was competing in the country in that era and Evans and Elwell each used the car to win the World 240 championships in Palmerston North in consecutive seasons. Approaching four decades later, some of the same reasons for omitting bodywork remain — weight reduction and better visibility. Evans just got there first.

Evans retired for the best part of three decades before being lured back to race in the Masters meetings at his old home track in Palmerston North. In his 60s, he showed he had lost none of his understated skill at the wheel.

“I got told to be careful not to hit too many people, all those old fellas,” he said.

Contact is frowned on in the Historics but the likes of Evans, Harper, Dave Bartholomew in the sweet-sounding Paul Urlich 41S and a handful of the South Island cars certainly don’t nana around when the flag drops. Former South Island champion Brian Winstanley is coming out of a long retirement to drive the immaculately restored version of his 22N Gary Parkes-built car, a labour of love project carried out by Ken Nell and his team. There’s a Tank, a Bigfoot, a Herbie VW, Rob Anglesey’s 32N that served as the start car over many seasons in Nelson and Vikki Lutherus from Blenheim in the 19A car based out of the Goulding stable in Marlborough.

Evans can’t remember when he was last in Nelson, he might not remember much of this trip, either — with a 5am start on Saturday, he’d like to nap on the ferry (“I’m always buggered”) but Harper’s prompting and the prospect of racing in a 12-car field were enough to drag him away from work for a day.

“Oh, it’ll be good to get a meeting in. The Covid squashed a few of the plans so the car hasn’t been run a lot but it goes pretty good, thanks to Charlie. We have a couple of other projects on the go (the former Howard Lockwood 5P Mustang-engined car is underway) so there’s a few laps left in me.

“We have the main chassis of Howard’s car done and he says he’s too old to drive it so I might get a spin in that one, too, when we get it back to that look from the 70s.”

The Historic Stockcars have three races scheduled in Saturday’s programme.

  • 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

Dave Evans and Charlie Harper race track and pit images, with thanks to Peter Paltridge, Go Slideways TV and Troy Ruscoe, Troy’s Classic Stockcars page on Facebook