By Pete McNae

Ian Clayworth has his “eureka” moment while waiting at the hairdressing salon over a decade ago.

The Nelson superstock driver was in for his monthly trim and read a magazine article that mentioned a BMW V8 engine that produced 414 horsepower from its four-litre capacity, straight out of the M3 road car that used it. “I thought, that’d make a handy superstock motor,” he said. And 12 years later, it has.

After a cluster of delays and frustrations, the latest in a long line of Clayworth cars appeared at the end of last season, a home built chassis with the first and only superstock BMW V8 engine of its kind tucked between the rails. Disregarding a run in Blenheim with their stockcars, a couple of blasts before and after meetings and two practices on a challenging track at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, the Tasman PartsWorld 7N has had exactly two race outings. And Clayworth was at the wheel for just one, missing the opening meeting in Nelson as crew member Warrick Steer drove that night.

“There’s a heap we don’t know yet but, after three races, I can tell you it’s the easiest car I’ve driven in a bloody long time and that motor is an animal. It just wants to cook tyres,” said Clayworth.

If this car works as he believes it should, it will be a personal victory for Clayworth — one of the battlers in the sport, racing since 1983-84 on a budget that would make a shoestring look well-fed. He’s had successes, including a New Zealand GP win and a South Island superstock title, but he’s rarely had the credit he’s earned. Maybe that’s because the class veteran (we know his age but it’s a secret) is as blunt as a sledge hammer and doesn’t sugarcoat his experiences.

In his own words, he’s been “dicked around and crapped on” by chassis builders, engine builders, fellow competitors, would-be sponsors. These days, Clayworth races because, otherwise, he’d be “sitting in a chair, eating biscuits”.

He’s not quite the curmudgeon he’d have you believe. The shed on Ian and Lynette’s Richmond property currently houses their superstock, Phil Krammer’s 32N and Ben Taylor’s 6N.  Until recently, Paul Jones’ 22N Ford 6 was there too, although that’s now resting with Paul Perkins, who is running it to boost numbers in Nelson this season. Many nights a week, all three of the cars are being maintained and the shed is a place for banter and BS.

“I like that side. We’re trying to figure out why Ben’s car has oil where it shouldn’t and none where it should to get him out there for Saturday and we all pitch in and have a few laughs and tell a few stories,” Clayworth said.

He’s got a few. As a Post Office apprentice mechanic back in the early 1980s, he worked with early Nelson stockcar drivers Colin Biggs, Malcolm Russ and Terry Hogarth. Biggs guided him towards his first Valiant-powered car, then he stepped up with the likes of Sam Woodford and Cliff and Tony Frost. Clayworth’s glory days were in a Gordge chassis powered by Rover V8 which was a cool piece of kit for the time. That car earned the NZGP win and he was also the first South Island driver invited to compete in an international teams race against the English, well before the GB Lions started travelling to the teams champs in Palmerston North.

Family, business and budget saw him step away for a while before he returned with the car that almost broke him. While Clayworth is happy to talk specifics, let’s just say his last car was a poorly tacked together purchase that rarely performed to expectations and was a nightmare to own and drive.

“I was a passenger in that car. It went where it wanted to go and it blew everything that I thought I had learned about stockcars out the window,” he said. “I should have sold it a couple of years earlier.”

Clayworth and Steer built the new one between them, with help from the likes of Brendan Higgins and Kerry Hill, while the motor gathered dust at the engine builder’s until Tony Frost began calling daily, then twice daily, until it was done.

Clayworth said there’s nothing fancy in the BMW, lowered compression, custom cams and helping it breathe better, but said “it needs taming”.

“Honestly, it will rev to 9000. I’ve only been on old, shit tyres anyway and we are trying to calm it down through the gears but it wants to fry the tyres off the car. I’ve got three new ones for Saturday, hopefully that will help.”

Saturday is Nelson’s PTS Superstock Stampede meeting, a new club initiative designed to keep the class in the public eye here as it rebuilds from its current low numbers. Around 30 top line cars are expected and Clayworth is interested to stack his ideas up against some topline machinery.

“If things had run to schedule, I would have had two seasons in this car and it would be for sale so I could fix the swimming pool and the veranda, but we’re only just on the track and still finding our way with it.

“It’s the easiest car to drive. It goes where you point it, which is nice after that last bloody car, and the motor has 500 horsepower without getting too far away from the engine I got boxed up and shipped out from the States — so I’ll run it and see where we are at when we get to the end of this season. It’s always a struggle with no budget — daddy never bought me a race car or even a tyre, so every expense comes at the expense of something else.

“But I think if you allow yourself to feel old, you’ll get old, so I’m quite happy to have the shed full of superstocks and superstock guys. I can pretend I’m their age.”

  • Ian Clayworth thanks wife Lynette, son Jake, Warrick Steer, Cliff Frost, Kerry Hill, Barry Andrews, Kendall Bradley, Tony Frost and Brendan Higgins while sponsorship support comes from Tasman PartsWorld, Richmond Vehicle Testing Station, Trinders/Waimea Engineering, D2C, Inhaus and Automotive Vision.
  • The PTS Superstock Stampede, presented by Barclay Engravers, sees a field of around 30 superstocks split into three groups. They will race round robin before finding a final field for the feature. Other promotions on Saturday include a round of the Hydraulink War of the Wings for sprintcars and appearances by midgets, a youth ministocks best pairs with travelling drivers entered and production saloons.
  • For those who can’t attend the meeting, the broadcast team from The Pits Media will livestream racing nationally and globally. The stream can be purchased for $25 through The Pits Media page on Facebook,  through the link on the Nelson Speedway website, or by clicking this link https://iframe.dacast.com/b/98751/c/512419
  • Spectator prices have been revised for this meeting to reflect the expense of promoting a travelling show of superstocks. Adult entry is $25, it is $15 for  pensioners and members while children 5-15 are $10. A family pass for two adults and up to three children is $50. Patrons are reminded to please be considerate around seating on the terraces. The club expects a big crowd at this meeting and wants everyone to have a comfortable, clear view so be respectful about where you place your chairs. The terraces are also no smoking areas in line with  smokefree environments legislation.

Ian Clayworth race images, Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography