Written by Pete McNae

It’s not often you will find “sentimentality” and “speedway” in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is: “There’s stuff all sentimentality in speedway”.

But on opening night of the 50th anniversary season at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, you could have been excused a lump in the throat and a waver in the voice. Two of the Nelson Speedway Association’s cornerstones, drivers who have raced way more than 30 of the 50 seasons each, brothers Shane and Mark Carey, were among the best performers in front of a handy first-night crowd. Shane ended up with the Trackman Trophy for super saloons, honouring former track manager, the late Murray Teece, while he was also a clear winner of the John Pomeroy Trophy for the performer of the night, commemorating one of the founders of speedway in Nelson and a past club president.

Carey’s path to the podium wasn’t an easy one. Last night’s season opener was the first in which the Careys didn’t have dad Mick alongside. A craggy, crusty wee man with a knack for building horsepower on a budget, Mick Carey’s passing will be sorely felt across the super saloon pits and by his sons in particular. Shane almost didn’t make last night’s meeting. An 11th hour parts breakage seemed likely to rule him out but, somewhere in Mick’s trove of useful things was the item Carey needed and a mad thrash by Shane, Rob Jefcoate and helpers saw the 12N Camaro on the grid.

Carey didn’t disappoint, winning the first heat and running third in the other — won by Mark Carey — which earned the brothers a front row start for the feature race. Shane’s narrow win over Mark by 0.26s, with Blenheim saloon driver Rob Flood in third, saw the Trackman Trophy secured, while the Pomeroy Memorial Trophy was the result of voting by a panel of judges. There was one twist left — it looked like the Camaro’s engine expired as Carey crossed the finish line in a billowing cloud of expensive-smelling smoke. Sentimental? Not at all. (*sniff)

The Nelson Speedway Association jammed a lot into opening night with three heats deciding Trackman Trophies across most classes although the super saloons and TQ midgets favoured the two heats for grid position and a one-off feature format. A healthy turnout of TQs from Canterbury and Greymouth boosted local numbers and it looked, for a while, like reigning national champion and the King of Richmond, Jeremy Webb, might have to make room on his throne. Heat one saw Nelson’s Dylan Bensemann dash away for a breakthrough win in his new car while Alicia Mclauchlan kept it local in heat two with victory from a handy grid draw.

Consistent finishes across the reverse grid format saw Webb line up on the second row for the feature behind Rodney Thompson (Greymouth) and another loyal Canterbury visitor, Kyle Glover. Webb jumped Glover by turn two of lap one but, out front, Thompson ran for home as hard as he could and led for nine laps before Webb went past for the win. Thompson and Glover completed the podium with Mclauchlan best of the locals in fourth. Like the super saloon feature, the unscripted action came after the flag with Nelson’s Joe Keene having a huge prang on the spectator straight. Initial reports were that Keene was concussed — it was a relief to see him waving from the cockpit of the 11N as track staff carefully removed the car from the arena.

As an added extra for the anniversary meeting, Nelson was visited by members of the Golden Oldies/Classic/Historic stockcar fraternity for three races. A few late defections cut the field and what appeared to be the quickest car, Brent Goulding’s ex-Dave Evans Tank (the first built by the General, a two-time national champion in 1983-84 and 1984-85) didn’t make it through race one — but the sight of side pipes on Hillman Imp bodies and the burble of a hotted up Hemi Valiant got those pesky feelings going again. The Bartholomew and Urlich Ford V8 was as nimble as ever, Peter Andrews’ raucous Chev-Imp an eye-catcher and both Anglesey brothers got their cars on the track to mix it up with the visitors.

The 21st century stockcars were well-supported by a strong turnout of quality cars from Blenheim, although Levi Collier did his best to eliminate as many as possible. Race winners were Ben Smith, Keightley Teece and Josh Nell with Teece and Blenheim’s Tim Alexander going into heat three as the points leaders. With Alexander having the fight his way past the N cars and Teece second behind Nell, the Trackman Trophy went home with the late Murray’s son yet again. Others to impress were Shane Brooks, John Everett and newcomer Zak Baker out of ministocks. Understandably, Baker didn’t impress with his results in his first night in the class — more because his car is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

A small superstock field of seven dwindled further when Brad Neiman broke off the start in race one and Shane Harwood’s car did diff damage in heat two. Dwayne Whitfield had his first night in the class and showed plenty of pace — in every direction — but the overall win went to local driver Alex Hill who held off Brett Nicholls by two points with Kihikihi’s Jared Wade in third. One-time Nelson Tiger Adam Groome of Hawke’s Bay took the feature when Wade used his bumpers to baulk Hill.

Nelson’s sidecar ranks were also given a helping hand by teams from across the South Island and the Hawke’s Bay bike of former Nelsonian Daniel Satherley, who had a last minute swinger switch and put Simon Leask on the chair. The Trackman Trophy win for the green machine pairing of Adie Drake and Kieran Satherley should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched sidecar racing in Nelson for the past few summers but there is a genuine challenge building from the 8N pairing of Nathan (Nippy) Ching and swinger Shaun Solly, who has ridden his own bike the last two years. Drake-Satherley went through unbeaten but Ching-Solly gave them a great race and took second overall with Satherley rapt to pick up third on his V-twin TL Suzuki-powered unit.

Streetstocks appear to be on a growth curve in Nelson this season after falling on hard times just two summers ago. Twelve cars started heat one although that included past national champion Simon (Slippery) Bland in 31V and two visitors from the Eastern States in Blenheim. Thomas McLeod showed a clean pair of wheels to the field in heat one but after that, it was all Bland with his second-first-first record earning the Trackman Trophy by a comfortable five points from Kyle (Hundy) Davies with Ryan Musgrove in a borrowed Falcon third. Six cars made it to the end of heat three with Josh Atkinson having a rough night. Meeting one and already a re-skin looks imminent for the 71N car.

Youth ministocks opened the season and close this report. The youth training class had their first race before the programme-proper began with Brayden Skurr first to the finish. Ashton Osborne, whose dad Mark was a late withdrawal from the super saloon field when he couldn’t complete a brand new build, scored heat two, with the third race also going the way of the young Rotorua-registered driver. The final tally was a close one, Osborne amassing 40 points to narrowly head off Skurr and Raiden Hearne with Skurr taking second on a coin toss. Piper Blackbourn collected the wall in turn four and needed treatment for a back injury. Others to impress on night one were Canterbury’s Cam Sidaway, Eden Eaves and Jonti Austin.

The 50th celebrations, which began on Friday night at the association’s clubrooms, wind up tonight with a formal dinner in the city. But that’s just the start of the 2018-19 season with a guaranteed crowd-pleaser up next, the Coca-Cola fireworks night on November 3. There’s the season debut for production saloons along with rounds of club championships, the Dave Scott Memorial Trophy for superstocks and the likely arrival of two more local cars — plus a stockcar hit to pass.

Photos courtesy of Tom Laney,