By Pete McNae
Dyllan Forsey has his elbows up and his eyes ahead. At 14, the Canterbury quarter midget racer is into his seventh speedway season and is already planning his next career move while his peers are focused on their first pimples.
Forsey’s precocious speedway history is no surprise. His grandfather, mum, dad, aunt and cousin have all raced, with granddad Myles the current owner of the first modified sportsman to win a national title in 1977/78 while auntie Karen was last sighted at Nelson’s Milestone Homes Top of South Speedway spinning laps with passengers in the family’s two-seater sprintcar. Young Dyllan was suited and booted for his first quarter midget drive when he turned 8.
“I’ve been around speedway all my life, maybe even before I was born,” the Rolleston College Year 10 student says. “The other thing I like is RC (radio controlled) stockcars so anything around racing, really.”
While the Southern Streetcars New Zealand Midget Grand Prix is the feature for the Nelson club this Saturday from 6pm, there is interest building in the support act, the little quarter midgets, who seem set to join the class rotation here, perhaps as early as next season. Already two young Nelson drivers; Bailey Bensemann and Conley Webley, are competing on a regular basis out of Ruapuna, south of Christchurch. It’s likely that Nelson will have two more cars in town for young drivers by next summer.
Unlike the popular youth ministocks, who are well-established here for drivers aged 12 to the day they turn 17, kids can get into the little open wheelers at age 8, hence Forsey’s long experience despite being two years short of getting his restricted road licence. The quarters are powered by a Honda XR200 engine or a Shineray 250cc water-cooled motor that carries the extra weight of a radiator. Forsey runs a Justin Insley-built King chassis — a make that will be sighted in the Grand Prix for the full-sized midgets at Saturday’s meeting.
Eight seems pretty young to go racing, but rugby and motocross have classes for under-5s and Forsey says the quarter midget class makes it easy for the littl’uns to get started.
“Even when you have been around for a few seasons, you try to look after the new kids and let them learn at their own speed, it’s all very supportive,” he says. “I know I have learned a lot in my time in the class and think I am getting better each season but some of the young ones are going really well … it’s not just the senior kids who are up the front.”
And they are serious about their racing. Saturday’s meeting is the second in a four-night southern series for the class with round one recently at Ruapuna and round three in Dunedin before they wrap up the series back at Ruapuna. Auckland driver Emerson Vincent has committed to completing the whole series and will be on the predominantly Canterbury-registered grid on Saturday.
Forsey feels like he’s ready to move on though. Two of last season’s quarter midget class; Grace Roxburgh and Montana Jamieson, gained Speedway New Zealand dispensation to move to the TQ midget class as 15-year-olds and Forsey is keen to follow. He’s had a couple of drives, including laps in Jeremy Webb’s 1NZ TQ, and the family are eyeing their options for next year.
“You don’t stop learning but I feel like I am ready to give another class a go and it’s been in the plans to move to a TQ next year,” he says. “The quarters don’t have a lot of power so you have to learn car control and to be smooth and keep up your momentum and those things work with a TQ, too. While they have heaps more power than the quarters, you still need to be able to keep a flow going and not scrub off speed by getting sideways or on and off the power.
“In quarters, you pretty much never lift so there’s still a good step up to TQs, though.”
Coming from an open wheel family means the ultimate goal would be a sprintcar or Saturday’s feature class, midgets. The bigger sprintcar fields in the South Island make that class more appealing once he’s saved his pocket money and granddad maxes out his Super Gold Card. “Midgets are amazing though, without the wings you see some spectacular stuff from them and Nelson had one of the best midget meetings I have ever seen (the 75th national championships in 2016-17).” Forsey has raced his quarter midget in the home of open wheel racing, getting on the podium at Western Springs, but Nelson remains his favourite track.
“You think it wouldn’t be fast-paced because it is quite small but, once you work out the corners and get that flow going, it’s awesome. It’s always smooth and it kind of rewards drivers who stay tidy and smooth.”
Forsey raced here once last season but is anticipating two visits this summer. Once Saturday’s meeting is in the books, the quarters will be invited back for the annual Racing for the Kids meeting in support of the Child Cancer Foundation on February 15. His young cousin, Courtney — Karen’s daughter — passed away with cancer in 2003 and the Forsey family have promoted CCF since. Karen used to carry one of Courtney’s stuffed toys strapped to the rollcage of her race cars while Dyllan has his helmet lettered up in support of the charity and raises money for CCF most meetings he attends. “We usually have the donation buckets out, it’s pretty special to our family. It’s one of my goals to win that Racing for the Kids meeting.”
- Dyllan Forsey races with support from his mum Sarah and dad Jayden, grandfather Myles and sponsors Action Powder Coating, Littlekids Stuff NZ, Mag and Turbo, Stadium Cars and Elf Oils. At this stage, Nelson has a 12-car quarter midget field.
NZ Midget Grand Prix
While the supporting act has extra interest for Nelson with the quarter midgets coming to the club in the future, Saturday’s main event is the NZ Midget Grand Prix, backed by Southern Streetcars, a local fabrication and engineering business run by former midget racer and drag racing competitor Al Rasmussen. Unusually, the grand prix is taking place a week before the national championship at Ruapuna. Nelson Speedway Association president Wayne Martin said that decision was made as a favour to Western Springs competitors, who have responded by helping make up a 25-car field in Nelson.
“They have issues with the council up there on an even bigger scale than we do so we had some sympathy when the Auckland club said they were handed set race dates and could we run this meeting to accommodate their calendar? They couldn’t do the week after the NZs but were willing to come earlier and it has worked out pretty good.
“The Chili Bowl (in the US) is going to strip out a few of the biggest names but the result is that most of the other guys have chosen to support us — we are really happy with the number of cars entered and the quality of drivers coming.”
Among those entered are the usual South Island performers including Tom Lumsden, Glen Durie and Dave Kerr, Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj, Jamie Brown and Brian Barclay and the likes of Peter Hunnibell, Jayden Worthington and Hayden Williams from the Springs. Five-times former national champion Michael Kendall is now registered out of Stratford while Chris Bagrie, a longtime TQ racer, is competing as 68P after midgets were added to the Palmerston North roster this season.
After running their South Island championships at Nelson’s last meeting with Eddy Frans topping the podium, the production saloons will run their closed club champs among Saturday’s support classes.
New 1NZ in Nelson
On Saturday at Greenstone Park in Greymouth, Nelson’s Ben Smith became the new national champion in Speedway New Zealand’s biggest class, stockcars.
Smith qualified comfortably out of his group on Friday and led the championship by two points heading into the last heat in his Ecotech Homes Rees-Holden 93N. Predictably, Smith copped some attention in the decider but, with help from fellow South Islanders, in particular the Robb brothers and Blenheim’s Wade Sweeting, Smith’s ninth place finish was enough to secure the New Zealand championship.
Smith’s Nelson clubmate Keightley Teece had been fourth going into the last heat and finished fifth overall as Nelson’s only other qualifier. Smith’s car previously belonged to Teece’s older brother, Cody. Defending champion Tyler Walker of Stratford was second with Mitch Vickery third after a runoff.
In winning the championship, Smith became not only the first South Islander to become 1NZ in the stockcar class, but was also the first Mainlander to enjoy any podium place, with no 1, 2 or 3 NZ coming this side of the strait before.
Further south, Ian Burson won the Ray Stewart 70-lapper for super saloons in Cromwell after qualifying to start from the front row on a challenging track.
The Nelson Speedway Association congratulates Ben, Burs, their families and sponsors on their achievements and we look forward to a lap of honour at our track very soon.
Ruapuna Speedway action photos: Brian Hopping, Hoppy’s Photos
Midget photos, Ben Smith photo: Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography