WORLD WIDE WEBB
By Pete McNae
Part-time midget car driver, fulltime champion. Jeremy Webb should be the mayor of Nelson. Maybe the MP. He already owns the piece of real estate that is the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway.
Cantabrian Webb rarely puts a wheel wrong when he comes north to the best little club-run track in speedway. And he further enhanced his status here with an enthralling victory in the Absolute Energy South Island Midget Championship tonight. On many nights of the speedway season, Webb is in his 1NZ three-quarter midget but, when his schedule allows, he takes the wheel in the 88C midget car. And he goes all right.
On any other night, Tom Lumsden might have defended the title he won last season at Ruapuna but Webb wasn’t to be denied. He had a shaky start to the meeting, a clash with Dave Kerr in an early heat leaving the front left of his midget flapping in the breeze while Kerr copped a two-place relegation. Lumsden was long gone and banked maximum points ahead of Glen Durie. Heat two, with a reverse grid, was won by Webb from Jack Low as Kerr — eight times South Island champion — spun his hopes away and Brian Barclay’s car drifted to the turn three wall and out of the meeting.
The 25-lap feature was a superb race, Durie challenging Lumsden but ending up spinning across the pole line to be sent to the rear of the field. That set up a 23-lap duel between Webb and Lumsden, with Lumsden appearing to have the quicker car but Webb giving his clubmate no room to attack with a flawless display. On half a dozen occasions, Lumsden closed the gap but went in a little hot and drifted wide or Webb slammed the door shut as the pair battled all the way to the chequer. Webb duly completed the win, reversing last year’s finish, with Kerr in third after having his hands full with Nelson’s Nevil Basalaj. The midgets return in January for the New Zealand Grand Prix where it’s expected North Island cars will boost the field in an attempt to dethrone Webb.
Both the super saloons (on debut for the season) and superstocks had fields that could be counted on the fingers of one hand in regions not a million miles from here, the super saloons rolling out seven cars including first outings for Isaac Russ and Peter Schouten, Dave Manera’s Nelson debut in his recent purchase and an initial outing for the brand spanking Stealth chassis of Mark Osborne. And despite all the comings and goings, it was no real surprise to see Ian Burson claim both the open club championship and the Trackman Trophy, which was run on the feature. Trevor Elliott banked maximum points in heat one of the club champs as Russ failed to make the grid and Osborne had new car issues, but Burson picked up the other two heats without ever really appearing to stretch the legs of the 3NZ Hypermac. Elliott was seven points adrift in second with Manera picking up the pace for third.
In the feature, raced off a reverse grid, Russ was absent after hitting the wall after a very tidy race and nine-tenths with Schouten making all the initial running. After a half-spin, Osborne really got into his work, picking off Burson and Elliott and pressuring Schouten when the new car’s motor appeared to let go. Schouten didn’t last much longer in the lead, the left rear wheel choosing its own path, leaving Elliott out in front. Then Burson decided to feed it to the big Engine Dynamics Chev and he went around Elliott cleanly for the lead to add the Trackman Trophy to the club title with Willie Woodhouse doing a fine job in third in his saloon, which runs a number of restrictions compared with the supers.
The open superstock champs became a standard club night when Andrew Good, the only outside entry, broke the block before the meeting in his 15C car. The first two heats were predictable, Brett Nicholls winning one and Alex Hill the other with Phil Krammer sniffing round behind them but, with Hill and Nicholls tied on points and together on the front row for the decider, surely something had to happen. It did, with Hill leaning right onto Nicholls off the start, then Nicholls retaliating by burying Hill nose first into the turn two wall, bending the bumper back onto the right front wheel. Krammer took his chance and bolted for his first race win as a superstock driver while Ian Clayworth had a good run for second but Nicholls knew what he needed to do and sat safely in third to take the club championship by a point from Krammer with Hill third, despite the heat three DNF.
Other action came from sidecars, production saloons, youth ministocks and TQs. The sidecar field was shorn of a couple of frontrunning bikes, who went to Wellington then couldn’t run on a rough track. That opened the door for Brent Steer and Wade Thorn to maintain their winning run from the previous meeting, with their closest challenges coming from the Canterbury bike of Paul Anderson and Nic Case. Steer and Thorn have enjoyed the freedom at the front of the field — they will be well-prepared for the return of the 47N and 8N combinations.
The production saloons rolled out a big field, boosted by four visitors looking for track time ahead of the South Island champs on December 28, while Fee Frans also made a return to racing here after a few seasons on the sidelines. Dave Leitch took out heat one but a big scuff along the back straight wall in heat two was damaging and, while Leitch finished that race, the lemon yellow Peugeot was trailered. Heat two saw a strong return to form by Vaughan Cornelius — Joseph Sutton was second in each heat. In the third race, Cornelius made all the running with Eddy Frans searching for a way past. When he found it, by punting Cornelius out of the way late in the race, Frans was sent to the rear of the field, Cam Lankshear inheriting second, ahead of Pam Nixon with Fee Frans completing a very tidy return in fourth.
The youth ministock class gets bigger with each meeting and yet there has still been none of the nonsense that marked– and marred — the racing in recent seasons. Competitors were in drawn pairs, not revealed until prizegiving to avoid any teenaged blood rushes and blocking in races. Unsurprisingly, the pairs featuring Cambell McManaway and Ashton Osborne fared well as they were clearly the quickest in the class and shared the wins, McManaway only missing a sweep when Osborne picked a great line off turn four on the run to the flag in race two. Others to impress included Blake Hearne, Zoe Knox and Hadley Boyce. First season driver Harlen Brunt had a meeting to remember when he ran wide off turn two, was squeezed wider, climbed the wall and flipped in front of the terraces. Brunt was quick to give the thumbs up but it was thumbs down for the 8N’s front end. In the final tally, the strong pairing of McManaway and Callum Russ won overall ahead of Hearne and Boyce with Osborne and drawn partner Piper Blackbourn in third.
The three-quarter midgets rounded out the night and it was a pretty handy meeting for the similarly liveried cars of Morgan Frost and Dylan Bensemann. Frost wasn’t mucking around, he won both heats, led all 20 laps of the feature and posted the quickest lap times with Bensemann matching that feat in sticking in second despite pressure from Jayden Corkill, Shane Robertson and Cameron McKenzie, whose car came on strongly in the later laps to take third in the feature. It wouldn’t be a Nelson meeting without a TQ roll, Christiaan Fish the unlucky one (not for the first time this season) as a turn one spin saw his car flop over and a couple of following cars damaged.
That’s it here until after Christmas, when Nelson hosts the Donaldson Civil South Island Production Saloon Championships and the annual demolition derby on December 28. We wish all our patrons, sponsors, officials and competitors a safe and happy holiday season.
Photos by Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography