RIVALS GREEN WITH ENVY
Written by Pete McNae
Life is full of surprises. Who knew that you don’t eat Christmas mince pies with chips and sauce? That buffalo wings don’t come from buffaloes nor is a urinal cake edible (unless you’re desperate). And who knew that Adie Drake and swinger Kieran Satherley had not, until last night at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, won a South Island sidecar championship?
The 47N Green Machine Suzuki has been so dominant in Nelson for so long, it would seem likely that Drake had a room full of the things, waiting to be sorted into boxes, but that’s not the case. His lone South Island title had come in Nelson almost a decade ago as the swinger on Dallas Kelman’s bike while the best he and Satherley had done since was a runner-up finish. Not so in the rescheduled Rick’s Tyres and Auto championship last night. The title had been held over following the rain-out on March 9 and, while the 15-bike field had lost a little of its oomph, it would have been a special sidecar team that could have headed Drake and Satherley.
Qualifying was run over five rounds of crossover heats with every team meeting the others. The top three bikes after qualifying (Drake and Satherley, fellow Nelsonians Nathan Ching and Shaun Solly and Canterbury’s 2012-13 and 2016-17 champions Lionel Green and Shayne Breach) advanced directly to the final. The fourth combination came through a B Main, won by Canterbury’s Ben Morris and Dylan Fox from the surprising duo of Pete Stephens and Jayde Alsop. Their own bike had played up, Canterbury clubmates Billy Leighton and Graham Partridge had a heat one crash so the Leighton/Partridge machine was handed over to Stephens/Alsop, who almost went all the way to the final on the borrowed machine.
And that final was as good as over once 47N got out of the gate and into turn one ahead of the chasers. Ching/Solly were on their own in third as Morris tried to make a move for the lead but Drake and Satherley know their way to the flag around Nelson and saw off the challenge from Morris and Fox, making it six wins from six starts on the night.
Lester Schroder and Sean Nolan on 99E continue to look like a handy pairing while long distance travellers Grant Lightfoot and Phil Rooney from Invercargill made it to the B Main before meeting their match.
The bikes had top billing on what was promoted as a two-for-one meeting with the features from March 9 night being shoehorned into last night’s programme. The other main carry-over from last time was the final round of the club championship for production saloons. A close contest got closer through the three final heats with just two points between the eventual first and second placegetters and third being decided in a runoff. Race wins went to Eddie Frans, then Kaylim McNabb, then Cam Lankshear with McNabb the overall champion on 153 points. Lankshear finished on 151 and then Frans squared off with Vaughan Cornelius, who took out second at the recent NZ Productions GP, for third over four laps, Cornelius getting the job done.
Superstocks made an overdue return for the Sturgeons Superstock Stampede for a cash bonus. Eight cars over three heats with minimal contact, for sure, but the crowd still love the class that has seen four drivers win seven national titles for Nelson. The one solid shot came when Alex Hill turned around heat one winner Shane Harwood in race two, while the overall prize went to Brett Nicholls, who had second, fourth and third placings. Harwood beat former Nelson stockcar driver Tim Ross in a runoff for second, the 18N Harwood car also the only superstock to crack the 16sec barrier in all three heats. The final race saw Trevor Lineham put it all together for an impressive win after an injury-plagued season.
You can imagine Morgan Frost’s surprise when he led a yellow flag lap in heat one of the TQ races past his own car, upside down against the wall. Frost was filling in for Darkie Armstrong in the 7N while dad Cliff took over Morgan’s usual drive but Cliff’s night ended spectacularly and early when he rode a wheel and flipped high and hard, having a wee sleep as a result. Frost showed his talent in the Armstrong car with two heat wins and a feature victory as Alicia Mclauchlan and Shane Robertson rounded out the podium. Greg Teece’s drive blew a motor and Dylan Bensemann and Graeme Porter made hefty contact in turn four.
Ryan Musgrove knows a thing or two about contact, too. The streetstock hit to pass promotion saw a couple of driver changes and some of the field perhaps failing to buy in fully to the need to hit rival cars but Musgrove didn’t miss. His two wins and a fistful of hit points earned him the overall victory ahead of Bradley Evans with Neville Soper third. Second-season driver Steve Thomas had good pace but missed out on third in a coin toss.
Of course, across in the youth ministock pits, where drivers from Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch and Wellington were competing in the Nelson Marlborough Waste Youth Ministock Mania, hitting is a no-no … a hell, no. An early incident saw one Nelson driver earn a 22-day break from the sport while a couple of others flirted with danger. Young Blake Hearne was a popular winner in one heat after his previous car was trashed in a Blenheim hit (rest in pieces, 41N) that attracted a six-month suspension. The final tally saw three cars locked in a tie for first with Canterbury’s Ben Hern winning the runoff from trackmate Maiah Bishop with Brayden Skurr the first of the locals in third. Callum Russ and Raiden Hearne were prominent throughout. A club championship run during racing was won by Skurr, ahead of Russ and the elder Hearne.
The meeting was wrapped up with the only demolition derby of the season, with Donaldson Civil stepping in at the 11th hour to secure naming rights. Close to 40 cars took the green, but when the chequer was waved, a member of Nelson’s favourite outlaw bogan family, Nicola Kitto, was the surprise(d) winner. Nicola wasn’t supposed to be in the derby but younger sister Tania couldn’t get a clearance to race and Nicola inherited the drive at the last possible minute, winning first prize ahead of Hayden Diskin. Cody Roach got great entertainment value out of his Mitsubishi as one of the crowd favourites.
Two meetings remain on the Nelson calendar with the Hydraulink War of the Wings for sprintcars to feature on April 6.