By Pete McNae

Less is more as far as Nelson stockcar driver Michael Paynter is concerned. You’ll see why when he takes his place on the grid this Saturday for the opening night of the 2019-20 Nelson speedway season, the Trackman Trophy meeting at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway.

Look at the pictures accompanying this article and there’s something missing off his 8N stockcar, a bit of added weight around its middle. Paynter, who returns on Saturday after a season away from racing, decided to go for a different look and he and his team chopped the pillars out of the Ford Y body. There are side panels and a roof but nothing but rollcage — and Paynter — in between.

The 33-year-old diesel mechanic at Dean’s Truck Services gave a couple of reasons for the departure from the bellybutton (everyone’s got one) Y body. He liked the bare bones look of the recent Rees cars, which run no bodywork at all, while the rear pillars create a small blind spot which is not a good thing in a hectic stockcar race. The team didn’t just start hacking though … the body was taped, then trimmed, then shortened to get the proportions right.

“We did want to do something different and not just copy the Rees look. I wasn’t sure about the end result at first but, once we trimmed a few inches off the body, it looks a lot more balanced to my eye. It’s just a change — we are not trying to create any trends,” Paynter said.

The car also showed at Nelson’s pre-season practices with a small wing on the nose. That’s gone. Speedway New Zealand didn’t like it, although there is nothing in the rules specifically outlawing it.

“Dad had one on his car back all those years ago and was told to take it off, so I wasn’t really surprised. It’s not in the rule book that it’s okay but it’s not there that it is banned either so we thought we would chuck one on — there are a couple of high profile superstock drivers up north who seem to run them but we got the message to remove it, so it’s gone.

“It was only bolted on, no biggie.”

The car has had a big birthday since it was last raced at the end of the 2017-18 season. Paynter had done seven seasons and wanted a break and a chance to spend more time with wife Laura, daughter Isabella and son Micah. He said the fires were close to going out on his love of speedway.

“It wasn’t the racing so much as the number of nights in the shed. I always said I was going to take a year off, spend time with the family and see if the spark came back. Last year I didn’t go to many meetings, just the big ones, the superstock GP and some teams racing, although right the way through we spent one night a week in the shed, even when we knew it was more than a year til I raced again.”

The team built a new transport truck, making tweaks from their previous one which sold to trackmate Dylan Clarke, while the stockcar was cut off at the cowl, lost 25kg, shifted some bulk to the rear and had its Ford 6 rebuilt by Midwest Motors, rather than the usual Hartley powerplant. While it’s hard to judge on Nelson’s slick surface, Paynter says the dyno sheets show increased power and torque. That extra oomph will come in handy when Paynter contests the New Zealand champs in Greymouth, the GP at Woodford Glen and a healthy diet of teams racing.

The Tasman Thunder tailed off last season as costs and availability pinched and there wasn’t a team from the top of the south at the teams nationals in Stratford last summer. With Paynter back, two Hall brothers keen and another half-dozen drivers eager to be involved, the Thunder should hit back strongly. A triple track series with Christchurch and Greymouth is already locked in and Stratford is on the radar.

“Teams are a big part of the reason I’m really itching to get back in the car,” Paynter said. “I love those connections with your mates and how a team brings guys together.”

Despite plenty of public pushing for the fastidious crew to have a crack in superstocks, Paynter’s ruling that out.

“I’ll run this car for a few seasons. I like the numbers and I like the fact you don’t have to travel to get good, competitive racing. With the superstocks, you’d have to commit to a few away meetings to get racing … having said that, I’d be keen to get up to Palmy [Palmerston North] this season, it’s been a while.

“Definitely, having been away for a season, it’s lit the fire to get back. Greymouth hosting the NZs means more South Island cars than usual and maybe our best shot to make some noise there and the teams campaign will be quite cool. ”

One other slightly special feature of the 8N Paynter team is their willingness to spread the message about the sport. The 8N Duck mascot made his (her? their?) debut last season and is a hit with the kids while Michael’s younger brother Simon this week released his first promo video, available on the team page on Facebook. There will be more, including in-car teams racing content, as the season progresses.

Stockcars look to have good numbers for Saturday’s 6pm season opener in association with MTF Nelson, with stockcars, sidecars, streetstocks, TQ midgets, production saloons, youth ministocks and superstocks programmed to race for trophies initially presented by the late Murray Teece, a tradition since carried on by the Nelson club.

  • Michael Paynter thanks crew and sponsors Laura, Dean, John and Simon Paynter, Stephen Gribben, Dean Wratt and James Keys; Dean’s Truck Services, Lift n Shift, Imagecreators Motueka, Burnett Auto Electric, Tyre General (Motueka), Dan Edwards Contracting, JP (John Paynter) Builders and Parker Panel and Paint.


Images supplied by Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography page on Facebook.