CUP AND SORCERY
By Pete McNae
A super saloon wizard and a professional magician had a few tricks up their sleeve for their opposition at Nelson’s Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway tonight. The meeting was one rescheduled from last Saturday when a week of rain turned the infield into a mire and featured the Cando Cup for super saloons, presented by Cando Fishing’s Campbell McManaway and the 30-lap streetcar race backed by Trinders, that serves as an appetiser for the demo derby on Boxing Day.
The shift in the calendar meant the club got a meeting in that they hadn’t scheduled but it also meant a number of entrants had made other plans with just eight supers turning up to vie for the cup and the winner’s purse of $3000 while other fields, in particular Nelson’s TQ ranks, were seriously underpowered. But the weather was great, enough of a crowd came in to cover the bills and the super saloon final — what we saw through the dust — was worth anyone’s admission fee.
The super saloons ran three heats to set the grid for a 20-lap final with five of the eight entrants sporting the Nelson “N” — the most the club has fielded in the class in a long while. Also making the commitment and the long haul were Ray Stewart and a pair of Boulton brothers, Ricky and Josh. Heat one went the way of Ian Burson in unofficial lap record time with Stewart a full five seconds back and Isaac Russ having car issues that cost him a start in heat two. McManaway declared his intentions in heat two with a win as Ricky Boulton took a big wall ride along the spectator straight and the third heat went Burson’s way, although the veteran Stewart set the quickest lap time in second place.
The final saw Burson inside the front row with Stewart outside and McManaway on row two with Josh Boulton, ahead of Shane Carey, Ricky Boulton, Dave Manera and Russ, who had fronted again for heat three. And when Burson dived inside into turn one on lap one, it could have been lights out and sign the big cheque for the Nelson logger. But McManaway wasn’t about to surrender his cash so easily. For 16 of the 20 laps, he tried everything but assault to get by Burson, wide, inside, braking late and accelerating early. Burson didn’t falter and, on that 17th lap, McManaway rode the wall off turn four and retired infield, leaving Stewart as the closest of the chasers with Ricky Boulton rounding out the top three.
In fact, it was a good night to be a Burson with the next generation, Ian and Julie’s son Jack winning the first youth ministock race of his young career. After having his first rollover in Blenheim recently, Burs Jnr and team had the car immaculate again and he drove a tidy race to bag heat two out of four. Two new drivers, Jake Peterson and Leilah Jefcoate (more children of racing families) made their class debut but it was the old hands; Blake Hearne and Callum Russ, who dominated proceedings, Hearne winning twice and unluckily getting tangled when a third win was possible. Russ took the other chequer.
The other junior class, quarter midgets for the 8- to 15-year-olds, had four races, too. Anyone who has followed speedway will know the surnames Webb and Brownlees, with young Romeo Warren Webb and Jack Brownlees travelling from Christchurch and collecting chequers. The locals are bridging the gap though, which is notable as the class was only added to Nelson’s official roster this season — which is now all of two meetings old.
Their bigger brethren, the three-quarter midgets, have been a staple in Nelson’s programme in the past five years but this was a tough night for the class. Numbers were low and went further down through the evening with just four cars completing a widely-spread feature race that perhaps could have been cut short of the 15 laps. Dylan Bensemann is right there with the quickest in the class locally and took heat one and the feature, Alicia Hill won the second heat after an aggressive, but legitimate, pass on Morgan Frost that saw the 57N car come within three degrees of tilt from tipping over (Frost was visibly unimpressed afterwards) and then Hill led the feature before Bensemann made contact in turn 2 and the 6N car was out of the race. Raiden Hearne, Jonti Austin and Kynan Bezett stayed out of the melee to run 2-3-4 in the feature.
Kaylim McNabb made his evening look easy in the production saloon best pairs promotion, the only problem being that his racing partner, Eddy Frans, didn’t quite manage to get one race out of his new Toyota Blade before it broke 5m short of the finish. Going it alone, McNabb made a fair fist of it and finished with 33 points, just five fewer than the third-placed pairing. He won all three heats by massive margins and, in race one, also unofficially erased Steve Russ’ lap record that has gathered cobwebs in the books since the summer of 2003-04. The records show Russ turning a 16.436s lap, McNabb went better with a 16.343s circuit as he won heat one by a full five seconds. His other victories were by three and six seconds but … without a paired partner, honours went to the Blenheim-Nelson combo of David Allan and Jordan Gillespie on 47 points, shared almost equally between each driver, ahead of Dave Leitch and Brett Allan on 39 with the Vaughan Cornelius/Nicole Carey team taking third overall.
They went best pairs racing in the stockcar class too, thanks in part to the welcome presence of 151C Wade Sweeting, 74GM Dave Houston Jnr and 417GM Kurt Browning who helped pump up the local field. Also on the grid for the first time this season were Morgan Dumelow and class newcomer and ex youth ministock driver Max Baker. The 1NZ car of Ben Smith looks the total package though and he had little trouble in winning two out of three and partnering with John Everett for the best pairs honours. Everett took a rough ride along the wall but bounced back for more and Max Baker will be stoked to have finished each race on the lead lap, even getting one over older brother Zac in one race. The race three win went to Michael Paynter, a match for Smith’s Soon For Sale 1NZ when it behaves, with the pairs podium being completed by Dylan Clarke and Browning in second with Dumelow and Sweeting third overall. Smith and Everett were 11 points clear of the chasers, though.
The streetstocks were the other official class and another to start with healthy numbers (16 in heat one) which were whittled away by heat three. In the past two seasons, Ryan Musgrove has had it pretty much his own way and he was still the leading points scorer tonight but Nelson has half a dozen hot rods this season which will help when it comes to picking a Knights team. Among those quick cars were race winners Cody McCarrison, Steve Soper and Neville Soper but survival also counts in streetstocks with Musgrove tallying 59 points ahead of Matt Watson (48) and Steve Soper 47.
That left just the streetcar 30-lapper with cars that are demo derby legal racing for a flag, rather than to a steaming death. The crowd had its favourites — Emma Nell’s run in the Herbie VW ended in front of the tower and Andre Evans had a Holden full of flappy bits by the end but it was wily campaigner Andre Vegas who won yet another one of these events. On Friday, he was sawing women in half and lopping off limbs as one of New Zealand’s most popular stage magicians. A night later, he still had all the tricks. When the track was wet, he took his Mitsi wagon out by the wall to find drier clay and then took no risks as others got in some derby prep. Second went to Shannon Taylor in a Nissan with Taylor Lynch’s Lancer credited with third in what was a lapscoring nightmare to match Vegas’ Black Friday performance.
Because the Nelson Speedway Association had a spare week up its sleeve, tonight’s race date could be slotted in without messing with the resource consent which only allows meetings once a fortnight. So the club is back into it in two weeks’ time with the Hydraulink War of the Wings for sprintcars on November 28.
Photos: Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography