CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN
OPEN WHEEL DEAL
Written by Pete McNae
It’s beginning to look like there is daylight between Jeremy Webb and every other three-quarter midget racer in New Zealand
His runaway win in the Waimea Vehicle Testing Station New Zealand TQ Midget Grand Prix last night completed his triple crown (NZs, GP and SI champs) for the second year in a row. Add in the CTRA national title last weekend, a couple of club championships and a fist full of feature races and Webb has left his size 9 and a half footprint on the ass of the class the past two summers.
His victory at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway last night really only had one minor blip, a cautious seventh on a dry, dusty surface from the back of the grid in heat one, although he still had the quickest single lap time in that race. From that point, there was a win in the second heat rotation and a comfortable third in heat three, all adding up to a front row grid start for the 25-lap feature. Within 20m of the green flag, he was clear of the pack and never headed, despite a pair of restarts for rollovers that brought the feature field back together.
Webb might have had a small flutter on lap 16 of the final when he was among lapped traffic for one of the crashes. Canterbury’s Gareth Bindon spun and rolled in turn three, forcing Hawke’s Bay driver Kris Gillies up into the wall as he reacted to avoid Bindon. But, when it’s your night, even tumbling TQs won’t slow you and Webb bolted again from the restart. The other yellow came about when Coaster Cameron McKenzie crashed in turn three, requiring ambulance assistance. That gave two-time national champ Duane Todd (Hawke’s Bay), Cantabrian Liam McCoubrey and Auckland’s Ryan Barry a sniff of Webb’s tail tank but he didn’t put a wheel wrong in the final four laps, winning by a second-and-a-half. Todd, wily and aggressive, improved through the meeting as he got to grips with the surface in Nelson again and took second with Barry getting by McCoubrey with two laps to run for third.
The Nelson qualifiers all ran in a clump behind the front runners but well on the pace throughout the race, Morgan Frost the first home in sixth. Darkie Armstrong was seventh, Shane Robertson eighth and Dylan Stone-Cuthbert ninth. Alicia Mclauchlan and Greg Teece also qualified for the 20-car feature.
Earlier, with the field split into four groups for crossover heat racing, a pattern emerged with Greymouth drivers James Thompson and Rodney Thompson winning first round races, round two going to Canterbury (Webb and Kyle Glover) while the long-distance duo of Barry and Harrison Martens from Western Springs in Auckland took out the heats in round three. Martens, a new name to Nelson, but impressive last night, earned a front row start in the feature and was running close behind Webb, alongside McCoubrey when he slapped the wall hard on lap 21 and headed infield.
Another driver who deserved better luck was Canterbury’s Kimberley Yeatman, the first driver to roll on the night when she rode a right rear and smacked into the wall coming off turn two, spearing in hard and tipping over. Her crew did well to get her back on track for the later heats but an electrical issue cost her a heat start, then she was a DNF in the B Main to find the last four drivers for the final. Armstrong won that last chance race to advance, along with Greg Teece in the Waimea Vehicle Testing Station-owned 55N, Canterbury’s Brett Booth and Aucklander Morgan McHugh who pipped Nelson’s Dylan Bensemann for the final spot in the field in the run off turn four.
With the crowd-pullers from the stockcar and superstock ranks not part of last night’s meeting and sprintcars, midgets and super saloons also absent, the Nelson club had to get creative to pack out the programme. The dismal number of paying patrons reflected the absence of the traditional drawcard classes, although Ian Clayworth did get two trial runs in his new — and noisy — BMW V8 superstock.
One of the additions was the quarter midgets, little open wheelers for drivers aged 8-12. They showed they were capable of “feeding each other a wheel” when Gracie Roxburgh was fired into the wall in race one but there were tidy, composed drives from the likes of Dylan Cook, Jacob Cunniffe, Ethan Smith and Dyllan Forsey. There is local interest in the class building so there’s a possibility the tiny 200cc open wheelers will be more than a novelty in future.
The other point of interest was the streetstock teams race that opened the meeting. Nelson’s Knights were looking for a practice run ahead of next Saturday’s State of Origin teams meeting at Woodford Glen so the class rep rattled up a second Nelson team named the Bandits to take them on. The win went, predictably, to the Knights as Ryan Musgrove finished 18sec ahead of the Bandits’ Steve Thomas in second but the likes of Kieran (Fiddy) Davies and Thomas MacLeod had a decent crack at the A team drivers. Musgrove’s new car is a beaut and the sight of him backing it into corners halfway down Nelson’s “straights” was one of the meeting highlights. He won all four races, making him an easy choice for Nelson’s competitor of the night, with Steve Thomas, Rob Skurr and KC Rose the only ones to get near the 9N.
Adie Drake and Kieran Satherley winning sidecar trophies is NOT a novelty, however. With the Mark Thorn Memorial on the line, seven bikes fronted but just one went unbeaten, the 47N Green Machine. The final heat for the leading bikes saw Nippy Ching and Shaun Solly challenge on lap one but once Drake and Satherley hit clear air, the result was never in doubt. A runoff was needed for second with Brent Steer and Wade Thorn (the late Mark’s nephew) running three laps alone after Darren Cook and Scott Bowler went in deep on turn three, made contact with Steer’s rear wheel and were fortunate to spin without rolling.
Production saloons rounded out a night in which the club paid tribute to the volunteer firefighters who have spent a week and a half toiling in the Tasman flames, their two laps of the track garnering the warmest applause of the night. Kaylim McNabb made his return after a huge smash at the nationals for a win but lost a wheel off the start in his last heat while other wins were shared by Jarod Fisher and Eddie Frans.
Nelson’s next race night is March when the club stages the Ricks Tyre and Auto South Island Sidecar Championship.
Photos: Tom Laney, www.imagepress.co.nz